Politics and Justice Without Borders
Global Community Newsletter main website


Volume 14 Issue 3 November 2015

Theme for this month

Global Community needs a Commons Trust Fund to manage the Commons with the highest priorities.

Germain Dufour
October 2015
Spiritual Leader of Global Community
Complete Paper found at
Video of this theme:

mp4 (9 MB) file

QuickTime mov (41 MB) file

Global Community needs a Commons Trust Fund to manage the Commons with the highest priorities.

Artwork by Germain Dufour
October 2015
( see enlargement Global Community needs a Commons Trust Fund to manage the Commons with the highest priorities.)

Authors of research papers and articles on global issues for this month

Bill Van Auken , Tony Cartalucci, Farooque Chowdhury, Steve Connor, Guy Crequie, François Fournet, Pope Francis, Adam Hersh, Michael T. Klare, Reynard Loki (2), Kyla Mandel, Gareth Porter, Paul Craig Roberts, Joseph Stiglitz, Ari Solomon, Colin Todhunter, Eric Zuesse

Bill Van Auken, US To Give Arms, Air Support To Islamist Militias In Syria US To Give Arms, Air Support To Islamist Militias In Syria
Tony Cartalucci, What Does Russia Want in Syria? What Does Russia Want in Syria?
Farooque Chowdhury, US Is The Largest Historical Polluter: Capitan America Unmasks US Climate “Action” US Is The Largest Historical Polluter: Capitan America Unmasks US Climate Action
Steve Connor, Air Pollution Kills More People Than HIV/AIDS Air Pollution Kills More People Than HIV/AIDS
Guy Crequie, Appel aux humains Appel aux humains
François Fournet, Le passage de la paix La transición hacia la paz The transition to peace Le passage de la paix La transición hacia la paz The transition to peace
Pope Francis, Pope Francis' Full Address to the UN General Assembly Pope Francis' Full Address to the UN General Assembly
Joseph Stiglitz and Adam Hersh, The Trans-Pacific Free-Trade Charade The Trans-Pacific Free-Trade Charade
Michael T. Klare, Welcome to a New Planet: Climate Change 'Tipping Points' and the Fate of the Earth Welcome to a New Planet: Climate Change Tipping Points and the Fate of the Earth
Reynard Loki, Pope Francis Castigates World Elite at U.N., Links Environmental Destruction and 'Social Exclusion' Pope Francis Castigates World Elite at U.N., Links Environmental Destruction and Social Exclusion
Reynard Loki, Honeybees Are Facing a Global Threat, and If They Go, So Do We Honeybees Are Facing a Global Threat, and If They Go, So Do We
Kyla Mandel, Why Women Are Key to Solving the Climate Crisis Why Women Are Key to Solving the Climate Crisis
Gareth Porter, Why the U.S. Owns the Rise of Islamic State and the Syria Disaster Why the U.S. Owns the Rise of Islamic State and the Syria Disaster
Paul Craig Roberts, A Decisive Shift In The Power Balance Has Occurred A Decisive Shift In The Power Balance Has Occurred
Ari Solomon, There Are Half as Many Fish in the World's Oceans as There Were in 1970 There Are Half as Many Fish in the World's Oceans as There Were in 1970
Joseph Stiglitz and Adam Hersh, The Trans-Pacific Free-Trade Charade The Trans-Pacific Free-Trade Charade
Colin Todhunter, New Report On Secretive EU Trade Deals Highlights Corrupt Agenda For Mass Privatisation New Report On Secretive EU Trade Deals Highlights Corrupt Agenda For Mass Privatisation
Eric Zuesse, The Most Criminal Treaty in History Is Finally Presented For Signing The Most Criminal Treaty in History Is Finally Presented For Signing


Articles and papers from authors


Day data received Theme or issue Read article or paper
 September 25, 2015
Pope Francis' Full Address to the UN General Assembly

by Pope Francis, Information Clearing House

Pope Francis' Full Address to the UN General Assembly

Video and Transcript

Pope Francis’ address to the United Nations on Friday as prepared for delivery and translated by the Vatican:

September 25, 2015 "Information Clearing House" -

Mr President,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Thank you for your kind words. Once again, following a tradition by which I feel honored, the Secretary General of the United Nations has invited the Pope to address this distinguished assembly of nations. In my own name, and that of the entire Catholic community, I wish to express to you, Mr. Ban Ki-moon, my heartfelt gratitude.

I greet the Heads of State and Heads of Government present, as well as the ambassadors, diplomats and political and technical officials accompanying them, the personnel of the United Nations engaged in this 70th Session of the General Assembly, the personnel of the various programs and agencies of the United Nations family, and all those who, in one way or another, take part in this meeting. Through you, I also greet the citizens of all the nations represented in this hall. I thank you, each and all, for your efforts in the service of mankind.

This is the fifth time that a Pope has visited the United Nations. I follow in the footsteps of my predecessors Paul VI, in1965, John Paul II, in 1979 and 1995, and my most recent predecessor, now Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, in 2008. All of them expressed their great esteem for the Organization, which they considered the appropriate juridical and political response to this present moment of history, marked by our technical ability to overcome distances and frontiers and, apparently, to overcome all natural limits to the exercise of power. An essential response, inasmuch as technological power, in the hands of nationalistic or falsely universalist ideologies, is capable of perpetrating tremendous atrocities. I can only reiterate the appreciation expressed by my predecessors, in reaffirming the importance which the Catholic Church attaches to this Institution and the hope which she places in its activities.

The United Nations is presently celebrating its 70th anniversary. The history of this organized community of states is one of important common achievements over a period of unusually fast-paced changes. Without claiming to be exhaustive, we can mention the codification and development of international law, the establishment of international norms regarding human rights, advances in humanitarian law, the resolution of numerous conflicts, operations of peace-keeping and reconciliation, and any number of other accomplishments in every area of international activity and endeavor. All these achievements are lights which help to dispel the darkness of the disorder caused by unrestrained ambitions and collective forms of selfishness. Certainly, many grave problems remain to be resolved, yet it is clear that, without all those interventions on the international level, mankind would not have been able to survive the unchecked use of its own possibilities. Every one of these political, juridical and technical advances is a path towards attaining the ideal of human fraternity and a means for its greater realization.

For this reason I pay homage to all those men and women whose loyalty and self-sacrifice have benefitted humanity as a whole in these past seventy years. In particular, I would recall today those who gave their lives for peace and reconciliation among peoples, from Dag Hammarskjöld to the many United Nations officials at every level who have been killed in the course of humanitarian missions, and missions of peace and reconciliation.

Beyond these achievements, the experience of the past 70 years has made it clear that reform and adaptation to the times is always necessary in the pursuit of the ultimate goal of granting all countries, without exception, a share in, and a genuine and equitable influence on, decision-making processes. The need for greater equity is especially true in the case of those bodies with effective executive capability, such as the Security Council, the Financial Agencies and the groups or mechanisms specifically created to deal with economic crises. This will help limit every kind of abuse or usury, especially where developing countries are concerned. The International Financial Agencies are should care for the sustainable development of countries and should ensure that they are not subjected to oppressive lending systems which, far from promoting progress, subject people to mechanisms which generate greater poverty, exclusion and dependence.

The work of the United Nations, according to the principles set forth in the Preamble and the first Articles of its founding Charter, can be seen as the development and promotion of the rule of law, based on the realization that justice is an essential condition for achieving the ideal of universal fraternity. In this context, it is helpful to recall that the limitation of power is an idea implicit in the concept of law itself. To give to each his own, to cite the classic definition of justice, means that no human individual or group can consider itself absolute, permitted to bypass the dignity and the rights of other individuals or their social groupings.

The effective distribution of power (political, economic, defense-related, technological, etc.) among a plurality of subjects, and the creation of a juridical system for regulating claims and interests, are one concrete way of limiting power. Yet today’s world presents us with many false rights and – at the same time – broad sectors which are vulnerable, victims of power badly exercised: for example, the natural environment and the vast ranks of the excluded. These sectors are closely interconnected and made increasingly fragile by dominant political and economic relationships.

That is why their rights must be forcefully affirmed, by working to protect the environment and by putting an end to exclusion.

First, it must be stated that a true “right of the environment” does exist, for two reasons. First, because we human beings are part of the environment. We live in communion with it, since the environment itself entails ethical limits which human activity must acknowledge and respect. Man, for all his remarkable gifts, which “are signs of a uniqueness which transcends the spheres of physics and biology” (Laudato Si’, 81), is at the same time a part of these spheres. He possesses a body shaped by physical, chemical and biological elements, and can only survive and develop if the ecological environment is favorable. Any harm done to the environment, therefore, is harm done to humanity.

Second, because every creature, particularly a living creature, has an intrinsic value, in its existence, its life, its beauty and its interdependence with other creatures. We Christians, together with the other monotheistic religions, believe that the universe is the fruit of a loving decision by the Creator, who permits man respectfully to use creation for the good of his fellow men and for the glory of the Creator; he is not authorized to abuse it, much less to destroy it. In all religions, the environment is a fundamental good (cf. ibid.).

The misuse and destruction of the environment are also accompanied by a relentless process of exclusion. In effect, a selfish and boundless thirst for power and material prosperity leads both to the misuse of available natural resources and to the exclusion of the weak and disadvantaged, either because they are differently abled (handicapped), or because they lack adequate information and technical expertise, or are incapable of decisive political action. Economic and social exclusion is a complete denial of human fraternity and a grave offense against human rights and the environment. The poorest are those who suffer most from such offenses, for three serious reasons: they are cast off by society, forced to live off what is discarded and suffer unjustly from the abuse of the environment. They are part of today’s widespread and quietly growing “culture of waste”.

The dramatic reality this whole situation of exclusion and inequality, with its evident effects, has led me, in union with the entire Christian people and many others, to take stock of my grave responsibility in this regard and to speak out, together with all those who are seeking urgently-needed and effective solutions. The adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development at the World Summit, which opens today, is an important sign of hope. I am similarly confident that the Paris Conference on Climatic Change will secure fundamental and effective agreements.

Solemn commitments, however, are not enough, even though they are a necessary step toward solutions. The classic definition of justice which I mentioned earlier contains as one of its essential elements a constant and perpetual will: Iustitia est constans et perpetua voluntas ius sum cuique tribuendi. Our world demands of all government leaders a will which is effective, practical and constant, concrete steps and immediate measures for preserving and improving the natural environment and thus putting an end as quickly as possible to the phenomenon of social and economic exclusion, with its baneful consequences: human trafficking, the marketing of human organs and tissues, the sexual exploitation of boys and girls, slave labor, including prostitution, the drug and weapons trade, terrorism and international organized crime. Such is the magnitude of these situations and their toll in innocent lives, that we must avoid every temptation to fall into a declarationist nominalism which would assuage our consciences. We need to ensure that our institutions are truly effective in the struggle against all these scourges.


The number and complexity of the problems require that we possess technical instruments of verification. But this involves two risks. We can rest content with the bureaucratic exercise of drawing up long lists of good proposals – goals, objectives and statistical indicators – or we can think that a single theoretical and aprioristic solution will provide an answer to all the challenges. It must never be forgotten that political and economic activity is only effective when it is understood as a prudential activity, guided by a perennial concept of justice and constantly conscious of the fact that, above and beyond our plans and programs, we are dealing with real men and women who live, struggle and suffer, and are often forced to live in great poverty, deprived of all rights.

To enable these real men and women to escape from extreme poverty, we must allow them to be dignified agents of their own destiny. Integral human development and the full exercise of human dignity cannot be imposed. They must be built up and allowed to unfold for each individual, for every family, in communion with others, and in a right relationship with all those areas in which human social life develops – friends, communities, towns and cities, schools, businesses and unions, provinces, nations, etc. This presupposes and requires the right to education – also for girls (excluded in certain places) – which is ensured first and foremost by respecting and reinforcing the primary right of the family to educate its children, as well as the right of churches and social groups to support and assist families in the education of their children. Education conceived in this way is the basis for the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and for reclaiming the environment.

At the same time, government leaders must do everything possible to ensure that all can have the minimum spiritual and material means needed to live in dignity and to create and support a family, which is the primary cell of any social development. In practical terms, this absolute minimum has three names: lodging, labor, and land; and one spiritual name: spiritual freedom, which includes religious freedom, the right to education and other civil rights.

For all this, the simplest and best measure and indicator of the implementation of the new agenda for development will be effective, practical and immediate access, on the part of all, to essential material and spiritual goods: housing, dignified and properly remunerated employment, adequate food and drinking water; religious freedom and, more generally, spiritual freedom and education. These pillars of integral human development have a common foundation, which is the right to life and, more generally, what we could call the right to existence of human nature itself.

The ecological crisis, and the large-scale destruction of biodiversity, can threaten the very existence of the human species. The baneful consequences of an irresponsible mismanagement of the global economy, guided only by ambition for wealth and power, must serve as a summons to a forthright reflection on man: “man is not only a freedom which he creates for himself. Man does not create himself. He is spirit and will, but also nature” (Benedict XVI, Address to the Bundestag, 22 September 2011, cited in Laudato Si’, 6). Creation is compromised “where we ourselves have the final word… The misuse of creation begins when we no longer recognize any instance above ourselves, when we see nothing else but ourselves” (ID. Address to the Clergy of the Diocese of Bolzano-Bressanone, 6 August 2008, cited ibid.). Consequently, the defense of the environment and the fight against exclusion demand that we recognize a moral law written into human nature itself, one which includes the natural difference between man and woman (cf. Laudato Si’, 155), and absolute respect for life in all its stages and dimensions (cf. ibid., 123, 136).

Without the recognition of certain incontestable natural ethical limits and without the immediate implementation of those pillars of integral human development, the ideal of “saving succeeding generations from the scourge of war” (Charter of the United Nations, Preamble), and “promoting social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom” (ibid.), risks becoming an unattainable illusion, or, even worse, idle chatter which serves as a cover for all kinds of abuse and corruption, or for carrying out an ideological colonization by the imposition of anomalous models and lifestyles which are alien to people’s identity and, in the end, irresponsible.

War is the negation of all rights and a dramatic assault on the environment. If we want true integral human development for all, we must work tirelessly to avoid war between nations and between peoples.

To this end, there is a need to ensure the uncontested rule of law and tireless recourse to negotiation, mediation and arbitration, as proposed by the Charter of the United Nations, which constitutes truly a fundamental juridical norm. The experience of these seventy years since the founding of the United Nations in general, and in particular the experience of these first fifteen years of the third millennium, reveal both the effectiveness of the full application of international norms and the ineffectiveness of their lack of enforcement.

When the Charter of the United Nations is respected and applied with transparency and sincerity, and without ulterior motives, as an obligatory reference point of justice and not as a means of masking spurious intentions, peaceful results will be obtained. When, on the other hand, the norm is considered simply as an instrument to be used whenever it proves favorable, and to be avoided when it is not, a true Pandora’s box is opened, releasing uncontrollable forces which gravely harm defenseless populations, the cultural milieu and even the biological environment.

The Preamble and the first Article of the Charter of the United Nations set forth the foundations of the international juridical framework: peace, the pacific solution of disputes and the development of friendly relations between the nations. Strongly opposed to such statements, and in practice denying them, is the constant tendency to the proliferation of arms, especially weapons of mass distraction, such as nuclear weapons. An ethics and a law based on the threat of mutual destruction – and possibly the destruction of all mankind – are self-contradictory and an affront to the entire framework of the United Nations, which would end up as “nations united by fear and distrust”. There is urgent need to work for a world free of nuclear weapons, in full application of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, in letter and spirit, with the goal of a complete prohibition of these weapons.


The recent agreement reached on the nuclear question in a sensitive region of Asia and the Middle East is proof of the potential of political good will and of law, exercised with sincerity, patience and constancy. I express my hope that this agreement will be lasting and efficacious, and bring forth the desired fruits with the cooperation of all the parties involved.

In this sense, hard evidence is not lacking of the negative effects of military and political interventions which are not coordinated between members of the international community. For this reason, while regretting to have to do so, I must renew my repeated appeals regarding to the painful situation of the entire Middle East, North Africa and other African countries, where Christians, together with other cultural or ethnic groups, and even members of the majority religion who have no desire to be caught up in hatred and folly, have been forced to witness the destruction of their places of worship, their cultural and religious heritage, their houses and property, and have faced the alternative either of fleeing or of paying for their adhesion to good and to peace by their own lives, or by enslavement.

These realities should serve as a grave summons to an examination of conscience on the part of those charged with the conduct of international affairs. Not only in cases of religious or cultural persecution, but in every situation of conflict, as in Ukraine, Syria, Iraq, Libya, South Sudan and the Great Lakes region, real human beings take precedence over partisan interests, however legitimate the latter may be. In wars and conflicts there are individual persons, our brothers and sisters, men and women, young and old, boys and girls who weep, suffer and die. Human beings who are easily discarded when our only response is to draw up lists of problems, strategies and disagreements.

As I wrote in my letter to the Secretary-General of the United Nations on 9 August 2014, “the most basic understanding of human dignity compels the international community, particularly through the norms and mechanisms of international law, to do all that it can to stop and to prevent further systematic violence against ethnic and religious minorities” and to protect innocent peoples.

Along the same lines I would mention another kind of conflict which is not always so open, yet is silently killing millions of people. Another kind of war experienced by many of our societies as a result of the narcotics trade. A war which is taken for granted and poorly fought. Drug trafficking is by its very nature accompanied by trafficking in persons, money laundering, the arms trade, child exploitation and other forms of corruption. A corruption which has penetrated to different levels of social, political, military, artistic and religious life, and, in many cases, has given rise to a parallel structure which threatens the credibility of our institutions.

I began this speech recalling the visits of my predecessors. I would hope that my words will be taken above all as a continuation of the final words of the address of Pope Paul VI; although spoken almost exactly fifty years ago, they remain ever timely. “The hour has come when a pause, a moment of recollection, reflection, even of prayer, is absolutely needed so that we may think back over our common origin, our history, our common destiny. The appeal to the moral conscience of man has never been as necessary as it is today… For the danger comes neither from progress nor from science; if these are used well, they can help to solve a great number of the serious problems besetting mankind (Address to the United Nations Organization, 4 October 1965). Among other things, human genius, well applied, will surely help to meet the grave challenges of ecological deterioration and of exclusion. As Paul VI said: “The real danger comes from man, who has at his disposal ever more powerful instruments that are as well fitted to bring about ruin as they are to achieve lofty conquests” (ibid.).

The common home of all men and women must continue to rise on the foundations of a right understanding of universal fraternity and respect for the sacredness of every human life, of every man and every woman, the poor, the elderly, children, the infirm, the unborn, the unemployed, the abandoned, those considered disposable because they are only considered as part of a statistic. This common home of all men and women must also be built on the understanding of a certain sacredness of created nature.

Such understanding and respect call for a higher degree of wisdom, one which accepts transcendence, rejects the creation of an all-powerful élite, and recognizes that the full meaning of individual and collective life is found in selfless service to others and in the sage and respectful use of creation for the common good. To repeat the words of Paul VI, “the edifice of modern civilization has to be built on spiritual principles, for they are the only ones capable not only of supporting it, but of shedding light on it” (ibid.).

El Gaucho Martín Fierro, a classic of literature in my native land, says: “Brothers should stand by each other, because this is the first law; keep a true bond between you always, at every time – because if you fight among yourselves, you’ll be devoured by those outside”.

The contemporary world, so apparently connected, is experiencing a growing and steady social fragmentation, which places at risk “the foundations of social life” and consequently leads to “battles over conflicting interests” (Laudato Si’, 229).

The present time invites us to give priority to actions which generate new processes in society, so as to bear fruit in significant and positive historical events (cf. Evangelii Gaudium, 223). We cannot permit ourselves to postpone “certain agendas” for the future. The future demands of us critical and global decisions in the face of worldwide conflicts which increase the number of the excluded and those in need.

The praiseworthy international juridical framework of the United Nations Organization and of all its activities, like any other human endeavor, can be improved, yet it remains necessary; at the same time it can be the pledge of a secure and happy future for future generations. And so it will, if the representatives of the States can set aside partisan and ideological interests, and sincerely strive to serve the common good. I pray to Almighty God that this will be the case, and I assure you of my support and my prayers, and the support and prayers of all the faithful of the Catholic Church, that this Institution, all its member States, and each of its officials, will always render an effective service to mankind, a service respectful of diversity and capable of bringing out, for sake of the common good, the best in each people and in every individual.

Upon all of you, and the peoples you represent, I invoke the blessing of the Most High, and all peace and prosperity. Thank you.

  Read Pope Francis' Full Address to the UN General Assembly
 October 3, 2015
The Trans-Pacific Free-Trade Charade

by Joseph Stiglitz, Adam Hersh, Information Clearing House

As negotiators and ministers from the United States and 11 other Pacific Rim countries meet in Atlanta in an effort to finalize the details of the sweeping new Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), some sober analysis is warranted. The biggest regional trade and investment agreement in history is not what it seems.

You will hear much about the importance of the TPP for “free trade.” The reality is that this is an agreement to manage its members’ trade and investment relations – and to do so on behalf of each country’s most powerful business lobbies. Make no mistake: It is evident from the main outstanding issues, over which negotiators are still haggling, that the TPP is not about “free” trade.

New Zealand has threatened to walk away from the agreement over the way Canada and the US manage trade in dairy products. Australia is not happy with how the US and Mexico manage trade in sugar. And the US is not happy with how Japan manages trade in rice. These industries are backed by significant voting blocs in their respective countries. And they represent just the tip of the iceberg in terms of how the TPP would advance an agenda that actually runs counter to free trade.

For starters, consider what the agreement would do to expand intellectual property rights for big pharmaceutical companies, as we learned from leaked versions of the negotiating text. Economic research clearly shows the argument that such intellectual property rights promote research to be weak at best. In fact, there is evidence to the contrary: When the Supreme Court invalidated Myriad’s patent on the BRCA gene, it led to a burst of innovation that resulted in better tests at lower costs. Indeed, provisions in the TPP would restrain open competition and raise prices for consumers in the US and around the world – anathema to free trade.

The TPP would manage trade in pharmaceuticals through a variety of seemingly arcane rule changes on issues such as “patent linkage,” “data exclusivity,” and “biologics.” The upshot is that pharmaceutical companies would effectively be allowed to extend – sometimes almost indefinitely – their monopolies on patented medicines, keep cheaper generics off the market, and block “biosimilar” competitors from introducing new medicines for years. That is how the TPP will manage trade for the pharmaceutical industry if the US gets its way.

Similarly, consider how the US hopes to use the TPP to manage trade for the tobacco industry. For decades, US-based tobacco companies have used foreign investor adjudication mechanisms created by agreements like the TPP to fight regulations intended to curb the public-health scourge of smoking. Under these investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) systems, foreign investors gain new rights to sue national governments in binding private arbitration for regulations they see as diminishing the expected profitability of their investments.

International corporate interests tout ISDS as necessary to protect property rights where the rule of law and credible courts are lacking. But that argument is nonsense. The US is seeking the same mechanism in a similar mega-deal with the European Union, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, even though there is little question about the quality of Europe’s legal and judicial systems.

To be sure, investors – wherever they call home – deserve protection from expropriation or discriminatory regulations. But ISDS goes much further: The obligation to compensate investors for losses of expected profits can and has been applied even where rules are nondiscriminatory and profits are made from causing public harm.

The corporation formerly known as Philip Morris is currently prosecuting such cases against Australia and Uruguay (not a TPP partner) for requiring cigarettes to carry warning labels. Canada, under threat of a similar suit, backed down from introducing a similarly effective warning label a few years back.

Given the veil of secrecy surrounding the TPP negotiations, it is not clear whether tobacco will be excluded from some aspects of ISDS. Either way, the broader issue remains: Such provisions make it hard for governments to conduct their basic functions – protecting their citizens’ health and safety, ensuring economic stability, and safeguarding the environment.

Imagine what would have happened if these provisions had been in place when the lethal effects of asbestos were discovered. Rather than shutting down manufacturers and forcing them to compensate those who had been harmed, under ISDS, governments would have had to pay the manufacturers not to kill their citizens. Taxpayers would have been hit twice – first to pay for the health damage caused by asbestos, and then to compensate manufacturers for their lost profits when the government stepped in to regulate a dangerous product.

It should surprise no one that America’s international agreements produce managed rather than free trade. That is what happens when the policymaking process is closed to non-business stakeholders – not to mention the people’s elected representatives in Congress.

Joseph E. Stiglitz, a Nobel laureate in economics and University Professor at Columbia University, was Chairman of President Bill Clinton’s Council of Economic Advisers and served as Senior Vice President and Chief Economist of the World Bank.
  Read The Trans-Pacific Free-Trade Charade
  October 6, 2015
What Does Russia Want in Syria?

by Tony Cartalucci, Information Clearing House

The Western media has portrayed Russia’s recent joint anti-terror security operations with the Syrian government as a means of expanding its influence beyond its borders. CNN in its article, “Petraeus accuses Putin of trying to re-establish Russian Empire,” would go as far as claiming:

One of America’s top former generals compared the situation in Syria Tuesday to a historic nuclear disaster, implicitly criticizing the U.S. for allowing it to worsen, and accused Russia’s President of trying to re-establish an empire.

CNN would also report:

Russian moves in Syria are designed to bolster and hold on to their naval base and airstrip along the Mediterranean coast of Syria, and shore up the al-Assad regime in order to preserve Russian influence in the Middle East, Petraeus said.

“I think that what Vladimir Putin would like to do is resurrect the Russian empire,” he said.

Ironically, the United States maintains over 800 military bases around the world while occupying Afghanistan since 2001 and carrying out armed operations everywhere from Somalia, Yemen, Iraq, and Syria to the borders of Pakistan. Russia’s only overseas base is in fact the naval facility mentioned by Petraeus. Petraeus never elaborates on how despite such obvious disparity between Russia and America regarding foreign policy, why Russia is suspected of pursuing “empire” while the US is not then completely guilty of already establishing and fighting desperately to maintain an immense one.

While undoubtedly Russia’s cooperation with the Syrian government indicates Moscow’s ability to project power beyond its borders, it has done so only at the request of the legitimate government of Syria, and only after all other possible options have been exhausted.

And despite many having depicted Syria’s ongoing crisis as a “civil war,” it is abundantly clear that it is nothing of the sort, with terrorists receiving the summation of their material support, and many of their fighters even from over Syria’s borders, not from within them.

Stopping Global Blitzkrieg 

In 2011, when the United States and its collaborators in NATO and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) set out to destroy the North African nation-state of Libya, it was portrayed as an isolated intervention based upon the geopolitical doctrine of “responsibility to protect” – or in other words – an alleged humanitarian intervention.

What quickly became clear, even before the operation concluded, was that the US goal was regime change from the beginning, with many of the militant groups supported by the US-led axis via airstrikes and weapon deliveries revealed to be in fact terrorist organizations, including the US State Department-list foreign terrorist organization, the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG).

Shortly after the fall of the Libyan government in Tripoli, it also became clear that US military aggression in Libya was in no way an isolated intervention. Almost immediately after hostilities ceased, US-NATO-GCC armed and backed militant groups began transferring weapons and fighters to NATO-member Turkey where they were staged for what was to become the invasion of Aleppo, the largest city in Syria.

The invasion of Aleppo was part of a wider US-backed campaign to divide and destroy the nation of Syria just as was done in Libya. Additionally there is the ongoing US-NATO occupation of Afghanistan and the division and destruction of Iraq after a US invasion in 2003 and a subsequent occupation there ever since. Considering this, what is revealed is a regional military campaign of conquest stretching from North Africa to Central Asia and pressing up against the borders of both Russia and China.

It must also be remembered that in 2011, the so-called “Arab Spring” was eventually revealed to be the premeditated work of the US State Department who began training, equipping, and arraying activists against targeted governments years before the protests began. This would be admitted to by the New York Times in a 2011 article titled, “U.S. Groups Helped Nurture Arab Uprisings,” which reported:

A number of the groups and individuals directly involved in the revolts and reforms sweeping the region, including the April 6 Youth Movement in Egypt, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights and grass-roots activists like Entsar Qadhi, a youth leader in Yemen, received training and financing from groups like the International Republican Institute, the National Democratic Institute and Freedom House, a nonprofit human rights organization based in Washington…

The New York Times would also admit that these Washington-based groups were all in turn funded and directed by the US State Department:

The Republican and Democratic institutes are loosely affiliated with the Republican and Democratic Parties. They were created by Congress and are financed through the National Endowment for Democracy, which was set up in 1983 to channel grants for promoting democracy in developing nations. The National Endowment receives about $100 million annually from Congress. Freedom House also gets the bulk of its money from the American government, mainly from the State Department.

Similar regime-change operations were carried out directly on Russia’s western border in the nation of Ukraine, where the US backed Neo-Nazi militants violently overthrow the elected government in Kiev. In the wake of the coup, the junta set out to crush any opposition, from political parties to the inevitable armed groups that rose up against its literal Neo-Nazi militants.

And as this wave of US-backed global destabilization, war, and regime change swept the surface of the planet, during its initial success, US hubris was difficult to contain.

In a 2011 Atlantic article titled, “The Arab Spring: ‘A Virus That Will Attack Moscow and Beijing’,” it would be revealed precisely what Washington’s end game was:

[US Senator John McCain] said, “A year ago, Ben-Ali and Gaddafi were not in power. Assad won’t be in power this time next year. This Arab Spring is a virus that will attack Moscow and Beijing.” McCain then walked off the stage.

Comparing the Arab Spring to a virus is not new for the Senator — but to my knowledge, coupling Russia and China to the comment is.

Senator McCain’s framing reflects a triumphalism bouncing around at this conference. It sees the Arab Spring as a product of Western design — and potentially as a tool to take on other non-democratic governments.

Upon weighing both the comments of US politicians, documented evidence of the engineered nature of the so-called “Arab Spring,” and regime change operations in Ukraine, it is clear that indeed the “Arab Spring” was undoubtedly “a product of Western design” and a “tool” the US fully sought to use against the rest of the planet, including Moscow and Beijing.

In 2011, the use of military force to finish where US-backed political destabilization left off was not fully understood. With the US now having destroyed Libya, Syria, and Ukraine with either direct or proxy military force, it is clear that the US is engaged in a a slow motion, 4th generation warfare-version of blitzkrieg – the lighting fast brand of military conquest used by Nazi Germany in the 1930’s and 40’s to conquer Western Europe, parts of North Africa and Eastern Europe, and the attempted conquest of Russia.

It is clear then that Russia today, is not interested in building an “empire,” but instead interested in stopping an obvious wave of Western conquest ultimately and admittedly aimed at Moscow itself.

Russia Wants Balance 

Russia’s relationship with Syria is entirely different than NATO’s relationship with the current junta occupying Kiev, Ukraine. Syria is a sovereign nation with its own independent long-established institutions and policies. Kiev’s junta literally includes foreigners who directly control the fate of Ukraine and its people. This difference between Russia seeking partners, and Washington seeking obedient proxies, is what differentiates the unipolar world the West seeks to perpetuate, and the multipolar world Russia and other emerging nations seek to replace it with.

Russia’s involvement in Syria is to first stop a wave of instability and military conquest inevitably destined for Moscow itself, and then to establish a balance of power throughout the world where the future creation of such waves is all but impossible.

This is not only Russia’s stated policy, but also what it is demonstrably pursuing on the stage of geopolitics. The basis for its legitimacy and growing influence is its adherence to the principles of international law, respect toward national sovereignty, and promotion of this multipolar future. As soon as Moscow betrays these principles, it will forfeit its legitimacy and influence and join the West in its increasing irrelevance and isolation upon the world stage.

For the West’s part, both political and media circles have gone through extraordinary lengths to not only avoid mentioning Russia’s multipolar vision of the future, but to portray Russia to be the very neo-imperialist in fiction that the West is in reality.

With Libya already destroyed, Iraq struggling, and should Syria fall, Iran, even according to the US’ own policy papers, would be next. Looking at a map reveals that after Iran there is little to stop hordes of US-backed terrorists from flooding into southern Russia. Moscow was required to pick a spot, draw a line, and hold it to stop what the West had arrayed against it. That spot is apparently Syria.

By looking at a map we see not a Russia expanding its empire, but a Russia struggling against admitted attempts to destabilize all around it before eventually targeting Russia itself. What does Russia seek in Syria? It seeks what all other nations seek and are entitled to, self-preservation.

Russia is not building an empire, it seeks to stop one that threatens its existence from reaching its borders with proxies that include Neo-Nazis, terrorists, and NATO forces themselves.

Tony Cartalucci, Bangkok-based geopolitical researcher and writer, especially for the online magazineNew Eastern Outlook”.
  Read What Does Russia Want in Syria?
 October 8, 2015
Why the U.S. Owns the Rise of Islamic State and the Syria Disaster

by Gareth Porter, Information Clearing House

Pundits and politicians are already looking for a convenient explanation for the twin Middle East disasters of the rise of Islamic State and the humanitarian catastrophe in Syria. The genuine answer is politically unpalatable, because the primary cause of both calamities is U.S. war and covert operations in the Middle East, followed by the abdication of U.S. power and responsibility for Syria policy to Saudi Arabia and other Sunni allies.

The emergence of a new state always involves a complex of factors. But over the past three decades, U.S. covert operations and war have entered repeatedly and powerfully into the chain of causality leading to Islamic State’s present position.

The causal chain begins with the role of the U.S. in creating a mujahedeen force to fight the Soviets in Afghanistan in the 1980s. Osama bin Laden was a key facilitator in training that force in Afghanistan. Without that reckless U.S. policy, the blowback of the later creation of al-Qaida would very likely not have occurred. But it was the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq that made al-Qaida a significant political-military force for the first time. The war drew Islamists to Iraq from all over the Middle East, and their war of terrorism against Iraqi Shiites was a precursor to the sectarian wars to follow.

The actual creation of Islamic State is also directly linked to the Iraq War. The former U.S. commander at Camp Bucca in Iraq has acknowledged that the detention of 24,000 prisoners, including hard-core al-Qaida cadres, Baathist officers and innocent civilians, created a “pressure cooker for extremism.” It was during their confinement in that camp during the U.S. troop surge in Iraq 2007 and 2008 that nine senior al-Qaida military cadres planned the details of how they would create Islamic State.

The Obama administration completed the causal chain by giving the green light to a major war in Syria waged by well-armed and well-trained foreign jihadists. Although the Assad regime undoubtedly responded to the firebombing of the Baath Party headquarters in Daraa in mid-March 2011 with excessive force, an armed struggle against the regime began almost immediately. In late March or early April, a well-planned ambush of Syrian troops killed at least two dozen soldiers near the same city. Other killings of troops took place in April in other cities, including Daraa, where 19 soldiers were gunned down.

During the second half of 2011 and through 2012, thousands of foreign jihadists streamed into Syria. As early as November 2011, al-Qaida was playing a central role in the war, carrying out spectacular suicide bombings in Damascus and Aleppo. Obama should have reacted to the first indications of that development and insisted that Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar keep external arms and military personnel and funding out of Syria in order to allow a process of peaceful change to take place. Instead, however, the administration became an integral part of a proxy war for regime change.

Seymour Hersh reported last year that an unpublished addendum to the Senate Intelligence Committee report on Benghazi revealed a covert CIA operation to arm Syrian rebels, in cooperation with Sunni allies’ intelligence services. In early 2012, Hersh reported, following an agreement with Turkey, then-CIA Director David Petraeus approved an elaborate covert operation in which Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar would fund the shipment of weapons to Syrian rebels from stocks captured from the Gadhafi government. The scheme employed front companies set up in Libya to manage the shipments of arms in order to separate the U.S. government from the operation. An October 2012 Defense Intelligence Agency report released by the Department of Defense to Judicial Watch confirmed the shipments of Libyan weapons from the port of Benghazi to two Syrian ports near Turkey beginning in October 2011 and continuing through August 2012.

A larger covert program involved a joint military operations center in Istanbul, where CIA officers worked with Turkish, Saudi and Qatari intelligence agencies that were also providing arms to their favorite Syrian rebels groups, according to sources who talked with The Washington Post’s David Ignatius.

By November 2012, al-Qaida’s Syrian franchise, al-Nusra Front, had 6,000 to 10,000 troops—mostly foreign fighters—under its command and was regarded as the most disciplined and effective fighting force in the field. The CIA’s Gulf allies armed brigades that had allied themselves with al-Nusra—or were ready to do so. A Qatari intelligence officer is said to have declared, “I will send weapons to al-Qaeda if it will help” topple Assad.

The CIA officials overseeing the covert operation knew very well what their Sunni allies were doing. After the U.S. shipments from Benghazi stopped in September 2012 because of the attack on the U.S. diplomatic post there, a CIA analysis reminded President Obama that the covert operation in Afghanistan had ended up creating a Frankenstein monster. Even the now-famous account in Hillary Clinton’s 2014 memoirs about Obama rejecting a proposal in late 2012 from CIA Director Petraeus for arming and training Syrian rebels does not hide the fact that everyone was well aware of the danger that arms sent to “moderates” would end up in the hands of terrorists.

Despite this, after rejecting Petraeus’ plan in 2012, Obama approved the covert training of “moderate” Syrian rebels in April 2013. As the Pentagon has been forced to acknowledge in recent weeks, that program has been a complete fiasco, as the units either joined al-Nusra or were attacked by al-Nusra. Meanwhile, as Vice President Joe Biden pointed out in October 2014, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates were pouring “hundreds of millions of dollars and tens, thousands of tons of weapons” into Syria that were ending up in the hands of the jihadists.

Unfortunately, Biden’s complaint came two and a half years too late. By October 2014, more than 15,000 foreign fighters, including 2,000 Westerners, were estimated to have gone to Syria. Islamic State and al-Nusra Front emerged as the two major contenders for power in Syria once Assad is overthrown, and the Saudis and Qataris were now ready to place their bets on al-Nusra. In early 2015, after King Salman inherited the Saudi throne, the three Sunni states began focusing their support on al-Nusra and its military allies, encouraging them to form a new military command, the “Army of Conquest.” The al-Nusra-led front then captured Idlib province in March.

Obama, focusing on the Iran nuclear agreement, has given no indication that he is troubled by his allies’ approach. If the Bush administration destabilized Iraq in order to increase U.S. military presence and power in the Middle East, the Obama administration has countenanced a proxy war that has destabilized and Syria because of his primary concern with consolidating the U.S. alliances with the Saudis and the other Sunni regimes.

Although it has been almost a rigid rule that pundits must ascribe U.S. fealty to its Saudi alliance to oil interests, oil is far from the top of the list of U.S interests today. More important to our national security state is the interest of the Pentagon and the military services to protect the military bases they have in Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait and the UAE. Their need to preserve those alliance relationships is intensified by the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) cornucopia of military contracts for U.S. arms manufacturers that assures enormous profits will continue to flow for the foreseeable future. One estimate of the total at stake for the Pentagon and its private allies in military relationships with the GCC is $100 billion to $150 billion over two decades.

Those are crucial bureaucratic and business stakes for the U.S. national security state, which is usually driven by the bottom lines associated with different courses of action. Especially given the administration’s lack of a coherent geopolitical perspective on the region, the security state’s interests offer a persuasive explanation for Obama’s effectively farming out the most important element of its Syria policy to regional allies, with disastrous results.

Gareth Porter is an independent investigative journalist and winner of the 2012 Gellhorn Prize for journalism. He is the author of the newly published Manufactured Crisis: The Untold Story of the Iran Nuclear Scare.

  Read Why the U.S. Owns the Rise of Islamic State and the Syria Disaster
 October 7, 2015
The Most Criminal Treaty in History Is Finally Presented For Signing

by Eric Zuesse, Countercurrents.org

As of 5 October 2015, a super-secret 12-nation treaty called TPP is set to be signed by the 12 nations, and the terms of this massive international contract will be kept secret until the contract has been in force for four years, at which time the contents might (but won't necessarily) be revealed. This will be a large new international government that has been negotiated for years by international corporations, and which is now to be rubber-stamped by corrupt politicians on their behalf. Whereas those international corporations know the contract's terms, the people who elected and are ruled by those politicians don't, and (for four years, at least) they won't.

These are the 12 nations:

Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, United States, Vietnam.

Everyone who has seen the agreement (the negotiators for those international corporations, and their politicians) has signed a form promising:

“to treat negotiating texts and other documents exchanged in the course of the negotiations as confidential government information,” and “that these confidentiality requirements shall apply for four years after entry into force of the TPP.”

The reason why the publics in these ‘democratic' countries will not know until four years have passed under those secret terms, what their government had signed to, is that their government will have signed to allow international corporations to sue their government (those taxpayers themselves) for potentially crippling sums, not in a court of law in a democracy to which the public had elected the judges or had elected the people who had appointed the judges, but instead in a panel of, typically, three ‘arbitrators,' who will be selected in accord with something called the “ICSID Convention”; and “the ICSID Convention provides that the majority of arbitrators should not be the nationals of the parties having dispute” — in other words: most of the arbitrators will be foreigners; all but one of the arbitrators will be chosen by international corporations; and, even the one arbitrator who isn't, won't necessarily be chosen by one's own country; but, in any case, no more than one of the arbitrators can possibly be selected by one's own country. If the non-corporate arbitrator happens to be selected by a foreign country, then one's own country will not possibly be represented at all in these proceedings, which might set fines that will cripple the sued nation, and that might enormously enrich the suing international corporation. This will not necessarily mean that the fine, if any, will be higher than it ought to be, but simply that there is no democratic accountability in the process of determining what, if any, fine will be imposed upon the sued country.

Furthermore, the decisions that are reached in these panels, unlike court decisions which may be appealed to a higher court, cannot be appealed (53.1 in the ICSID Convention).

Furthermore, in this TPP contract, no nation will possess the right to sue any international corporation — the right to sue is alotted only to international corporations, and they may, in these proceedings, sue only a national government.

Most of these panels will consist of three arbitrators. The ICSID states (37.2.b): “Where the parties do not agree upon the number of arbitrators and the method of their appointment, the Tribunal shall consist of three arbitrators, one arbitrator appointed by each party and the third, who shall be the president of the Tribunal, appointed by agreement of the parties.” So: two of the panel-members will be private, one will be the sued government, and the third will be some individual whom both of the other two arbitrators believe will be acceptable. That choice of the third person will be crucial, and will introduce an unpredictable element, which likely will determine the outcome. There is no resemblance in this to decisions that are made in a court of law in a democratic country. Each and every case will therefore be more like a coin-toss. However, since corporations cannot be sued in these proceedings, the weight can only be against the signatory nations themselves, which have chosen, through secret and undemocratic process, to submit themselves permanently to this form of international corporate tyranny.

The purpose of these arbitration panels isn't specifically to enrich international corporations at the expense of a sued nation's taxpayers. (Though it certainly does that.) It's not mainly a means directly to provide yet another source of income to stockholders. It is instead to terrorize legislators and regulatory agencies within each member nation, to issue only laws and regulations that are no stricter in limiting what the international corporation is allowed to do under the (secret) terms of the TPP, than the maximum requirement that is set forth in the TPP agreement. What those requirements are in the TPP is what will be kept secret for four years. For example: there might be a requirement to place no more than a certain standard for the safety of drugs, chemicals, foods, or other products; so that, if the sued nation issues a stricter safety-standard, than that, then the nation's taxpayers will have to pay to any suing international corporation, a fine for violating that suing corporation's ‘rights' under the TPP agreement, as interpreted by these arbitrators.

TPP, in any member-nation that signs it, will, basically, set in stone how strict each given standard can be; and, if subsequent scientific findings concerning that standard turn out to indicate that the standard should have been stricter (for example, that CO2 emissions should be even less than previously thought), then that's just unfortunate, but modifying the standard will be virtually impossible, because it would require renegotiating the TPP, with all of the participating countries.

In short: laws and regulations restraining corporations, will be crippled, essentially permanently, within the TPP area, if TPP gets signed. The benefits to stockholders in international corporations will be that TPP will terrorize member-nations not to raise any given safety, labor, or environmental standard, in addition to (of course) the fine awarded, which the taxpayers of the charged country will pay to the given corporation for the alleged trangression of the terms (which, at least for four years, are secret) of the TTP.

Furthermore, the vast majority — over 70% — of ICSID appointments of arbitrators, the decisions that likely will control the outcomes in these cases, are appointments that are made by people from “developed” countries; fewer than 30% are by individuals from “developing” ones. (See footnote 23 here.) Consequently, for example, Peruvians are far likelier to be exploited under the TPP than Canadians or Americans are.

Also, ICSID arbitrators are a more closed, tightly-knit, group of people than are arbitrators in other types of economic disputes such as WTO cases; and, whereas WTO arbitrators tend to come from government, ICSID arbitrators tend to come from the private sector. So: this system works for more concentrated economic power, the benefits of which will go to stockholders in the developed world, and the losses from which will go to consumers, taxpayers, and especially to the residents in underdeveloped countries. (Of course, the higher pollution and the more toxic foods etc. will diminish lives in all of the participating countries.)

Additionally, ICSID arbitrators are paid an average of $200,000 per case, whereas WTO arbitrators get paid only 20% as much if they're from the private sector, and zero if they're government officials; so, the profits from arbitrating in the ICSID system are far higher — yet another example of privatizing the benefits.

What will make this treaty — and, if they also get passed, then also Obama's proposed TTIP treaty with Atlantic nations, and also Obama's TISA treaty regarding financial and other services — “the most criminal treaties in history,” will be not only the collapse of democratic national sovereignty regarding these regulatory and legal matters, but, also, the huge size of the market-area that's to be corrupted in this systematic treacherous (profoundly anti-democratic) fashion, which privatzes ‘justice' in ways that will funnel wealth from the many to the very few.

Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of They're Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010, and of CHRIST'S VENTRILOQUISTS: The Event that Created Christianity.
  Read The Most Criminal Treaty in History Is Finally Presented For Signing
 October 10, 2015
US To Give Arms, Air Support To Islamist Militias In Syria

by Bill Van Auken , WSWS.org, Countercurrents.org

The Obama administration Friday announced an “operational pause” of the disastrously failed Pentagon program for arming and training “vetted rebels” in Turkey and sending them back across the border into Syria.

Instead, Pentagon and White House officials indicated, the focus will now shift to cementing ties with leaders of existing “rebel” militias, consisting overwhelmingly of Sunni Islamist forces with connections to Al Qaeda. US backing to these groups will apparently include both arms and ammunition as well as close air support from warplanes deployed by the US and its so-called coalition.

The policy shift follows the revelation last month by General Lloyd Austin, the commander of US Central Command, that only “four or five” individual US-trained fighters were then on the ground in Syria, and barely 100 more were undergoing training. This, after the allocation of $500 million for the Pentagon to train over 5,000 such fighters within the first year.

Austin’s revelation was followed within weeks by the Pentagon being forced to retract its initial denial of verified reports that a group of US-trained fighters sent into Syria had immediately turned over its vehicles and weaponry to the al-Nusra Front, Al Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate.

The change in strategy also follows a first week of Russian airstrikes against Islamist forces in Syria, including some that had previously received arms shipments organized by the CIA. Beginning in 2011, the US spy agency set up a clandestine station in Turkey and organized the funneling into Syria of weaponry from Libyan stockpiles after the US-NATO war for regime change had succeeded in toppling and murdering Muammar Gaddafi.

Both Washington and Moscow claim to be waging their respective military campaigns in Syria for the purpose of destroying the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), an Al Qaeda offshoot that is the direct product of the unleashing of death and destruction against Iraq, Libya and Syria itself by the US military and CIA.

In reality, however, the US and Russian governments are fighting for opposite aims: Washington, to topple the government of President Bashar al-Assad and install an American puppet regime; and Moscow to prop up the Assad government, its sole Middle Eastern ally.

The administration has come under increasing criticism from Republican opponents and sections of the US military and intelligence complex for its supposed “inaction” in the face of the Russian offensive in Syria. This found expression Friday in a column published under the joint byline of Obama’s former defense secretary, Robert Gates, and former Bush administration national security adviser Condoleezza Rice entitled “Countering Putin.”

It calls for actions to “create a better military balance of power on the ground,” including the creation of “no-fly zones” as well as “robust support” for various anti-regime forces and an effort to “solidify our relationship with Turkey,” a principal sponsor of the Islamist militias inside Syria.

The Obama administration’s announcement was also preceded by a letter sent to the White House, the Pentagon and the CIA by a bipartisan group of Senate critics of the administration’s Syria policy calling for an end to the “rebel” training program.

“The Syria Train and Equip Program goes beyond simply being an inefficient use of taxpayer dollars. As many of us initially warned, it is now aiding the very forces we aim to defeat,” stated the letter, which was signed by Democratic senators Tom Udall (New Mexico), Joe Manchin (West Virginia) and Chris Murphy (Connecticut) along with Republican Mike Lee (Utah).

The shift in policy announced Friday will not alter this aspect of the program, but only remove the fig leaf of “moderate” Syrian forces, with the handing over of weapons directly to the Islamists who constitute the dominant force among the anti-Assad “rebels.”

The Pentagon has acknowledged that among the principal obstacles to its training program was the vetting process that was supposed to have excluded those whose views were close to Al Qaeda’s, and the requirement that they engage ISIS as the main enemy, rather than the Assad government. It was unable to find such recruits in anywhere near the numbers projected.

President Barack Obama acknowledged in a press conference last week that the Pentagon’s train-and-equip program “has not worked the way it was supposed to.” He added, “And part of the reason, frankly, is because when we tried to get them to just focus on ISIL,” i.e., ISIS.

It appears that the administration’s answer to this failure is to drop these previous restrictions, providing direct US military aid to forces fighting for the overthrow of the Syrian government, including Islamists who would have been excluded from the Pentagon training program.

In the first announcement of the new program, Defense Secretary Ash Carter, speaking in London following a meeting with his British counterpart, Michael Fallon, said that it would be modeled on “the work we’ve done with the Kurds in northern Syria ... That’s exactly the kind of example that we would like to pursue with other groups in other parts of Syria going forward. That is going to be the core of the President’s concept.”

The US coordination with the Kurds, particularly during the ISIS siege of the Syrian city of Kobani, on the Turkish border, involved Kurds providing ground forces, while identifying targets and calling in airstrikes by US warplanes.

As part of the new program, Pentagon officials said that the US military would train “enablers,” leading members of various militias, who would be instructed in how to coordinate with American warplanes in targeting and striking forces on the ground.

The Kurdish “example” has been rendered problematic by Washington’s alliance with Turkey, which has allowed US airstrikes to be launched from Incirlik Air Base and other bases inside Turkey in return for Washington’s tacit approval of Turkish bombing of the Kurds.

The identity of the “other groups” with whom Washington wants to replicate this strategy is far from clear. Some media reports named the “Syrian Arab Coalition” as a likely recipient of US weapons and close air support. Prior to Friday’s announcement, however, no one had ever heard of this coalition, which appears to be something that the Pentagon hopes to cobble together from existing “rebel” groups.

The dominant forces fighting the Assad government consist of ISIS, which Washington claims to be committed to destroying, the al-Nusra Front, which is on the State Department’s list of foreign terrorist organizations, and Ahrar al-Sham, another Islamist group whose founders came out of Al Qaeda. Other smaller factions are largely fighting in alliance with these forces.

To the extent that the US military provides air support to these militias, it may well come into direct conflict with Russian warplanes that are bombing them.

Far from a tactical retreat, it appears that the suspension of the Pentagon’s train-and-equip program is only setting the stage for a far bloodier war inside Syria, while heightening the real danger of a military clash between the world’s two largest nuclear powers, the United States and Russia.

  Read US To Give Arms, Air Support To Islamist Militias In Syria
 October 11, 2015
A Decisive Shift In The Power Balance Has Occurred

by Paul Craig Roberts, Countercurrents.org

The world is beginning to realize that a seachange in world affairs occured on September 28 when President Putin of Russia stated in his UN speech that Russia can no longer tolerate Washington’s vicious, stupid, and failed policies that have unleashed chaos, which is engulfing the Middle East and now Europe. Two days later, Russia took over the military situation in Syria and began the destruction of the Islamic State forces.

Perhaps among Obama’s advisors there are a few who are not drowning in hubris and can understand this seachange. Sputnik news reports that some high-level security advisors to Obama have advised him to withdraw US military forces from Syria and give up his plan to overthrow Assad. They advised Obama to cooperate with Russia in order to stop the refugee flow that is overwhelming Washington’s vassals in Europe. The influx of unwanted peoples is making Europeans aware of the high cost of enabling US foreign policy. Advisors have told Obama that the idiocy of the neoconservatives’ policies threaten Washington’s empire in Europe.

Several commentators, such as Mike Whitney and Stephen Lendman, have concluded, correctly, that there is nothing that Washington can do about Russian actions against the Islamic State. The neoconservatives’ plan for a UN no-fly zone over Syria in order to push out the Russians is a pipedream. No such resolution will come out of the UN. Indeed, the Russians have already established a de facto no-fly zone.

Putin, without issuing any verbal threats or engaging in any name-calling, has decisively shifted
the power balance, and the world knows it.

Washington’s response consists of name-calling, bluster and more lies, some of which is echoed by some of Washington’s ever more doubtful vassals. The only effect is to demonstrate Washington’s impotence.

If Obama has any sense, he will dismiss from his government the neoconservative morons who have squandered Washington’s power, and he will focus instead on holding on to Europe by working with Russia to destroy, rather than to sponsor, the terrorism in the Middle East that is overwhelming Europe with refugees.

If Obama cannot admit a mistake, the United States will continue to lose credibility and prestige around the world.

Dr. Paul Craig Roberts was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Economic Policy and associate editor of the Wall Street Journal. He was columnist for Business Week, Scripps Howard News Service, and Creators Syndicate. He has had many university appointments. His internet columns have attracted a worldwide following. Roberts' latest books are The Failure of Laissez Faire Capitalism and Economic Dissolution of the West and How America Was Lost.

  Read A Decisive Shift In The Power Balance Has Occurred
 October 12, 2015
New Report On Secretive EU Trade Deals Highlights Corrupt Agenda For Mass Privatisation

by Colin Todhunter, Countercurrents.org

Public services in the EU are under threat from transatlantic trade agreements that could endanger citizens’ rights to basic services like water, health, and energy for the sake of corporate profits, according to a new report released today by an international group of NGOs and trade unions.

The study shows how the EU’s Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) deal with Canada, and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) under negotiation with the US, could lock public utilities into irreversible commercialisation and remove governments' ability to regulate services.

Exposing systemic collusion between big business and European Commission officials in drawing up CETA and TTIP, the report shows how negotiators are doing the work of the EU’s most powerful corporate lobby groups in pushing an aggressive corporate agenda of far-reaching market opening in the public sector.

Pia Eberhardt, researcher and campaigner with lobby watchdog Corporate Europe Observatory:

“Corporate lobby groups have their fingerprints all over CETA and a similarly dangerous agenda is being pursued in the ongoing TTIP talks. The consequences include proposals for excessive investor rights which mean corporations could sue governments for regulations that affect their profits, potentially leading to multi-billion Euro payouts in compensation. Citizens must come together to stop this!”

Jan Willem Goudriaan, general Secretary of the European Federation of Public Service Unions (EPSU):

“The corporate sector is pushing an agenda that threatens citizens and workers as a vast array of public services are set to be subject to liberalisation under the provisions of these agreements. What is at stake is our right to vital services, and the ability of public services to function in the public interest.”

The report states that what is at stake is our right to vital services and more; it is about our ability to steer services of all kinds to the benefit of society at large. If left to their own course, trade negotiations will eventually make it impossible to implement decisions for the common good. As long as TTIP and CETA do not protect the ability to regulate in the public interest, they must therefore be rejected.

The report highlights the aggressive agenda of corporations with regards to TTIP and CETA. And it shows how those in charge of EU trade negotiations are rolling out the red carpet for the services industry, with both the consolidated CETA agreement published in September 2014, as well as drafts of TTIP chapters and internal negotiation documents that reflect the wishlists of corporate lobbyists.

The key findings:

1. TTIP and CETA are being influenced by the EU’s most powerful corporate lobby group BusinessEurope and the European Services Forum, a lobby outfit bringing together business associations as well as major companies such as British Telecommunications and Deutsche Bank.

2. The European Commission actively stimulates business lobbying around its trade negotiations. In other words, there is systemic collusion between the Commission and business circles.

3. CETA is set to become the first EU agreement with the ‘negative list’ approach for services commitments: all services are subject to liberalisation unless an explicit exception is made. The same could happen in TTIP.

4. Big business has successfully lobbied against the exemption of public services from CETA and TTIP as both agreements apply to virtually all services. This effectively limits the governmental authority exemption to a few core sovereign functions such as law enforcement, the judiciary, or the services of a central bank.

5. Under investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS), thousands of US and Canadian corporations (as well as EU-headquartered multinationals structuring their investments through subsidiaries on the other side of the Atlantic) could sue the EU and its member states over regulatory changes in the services sector diminishing corporate profits, potentially leading to multi-billion euro taxpayer payouts in compensation.

6. The different reservations and exemptions in CETA and TTIP are inadequate to effectively protect the public sector and decision making over how to organise it.

7. The European Commission follows industry demands to lock in present and future liberalisations and privatisations of public services. This could threaten the growing trend of remunicipalisation of water services, energy grids and transport services. A roll-back of some of the failed privatisations of the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) to strengthen non-profit healthcare providers might be seen as violations of CETA/TTIP – as might nationalisations and re-regulations in the financial sector such as those seen during the economic crisis.

8. Giving in to corporate demands for unfettered access to government procurement could restrict governments’ ability to support local and not-for-profit providers and foster the outsourcing of public sector jobs to private firms, where staff are often forced to do the same work with worse pay and working conditions.

9. Both CETA and TTIP threaten to liberalise health and social care, making it difficult to adopt new regulations in the sector. The UK’s TTIP services offer explicitly includes hospital services. In the CETA text and recent TTIP drafts no less than 11 EU member States liberalise long-term care such as residential care for the elderly (Belgium, Cyprus, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Portugal, Spain, and the UK).

10. The EU’s most recent draft TTIP services text severely restricts the use of universal service obligations (USOs) and curbs competition by public postal operators, mirroring the wishes of big courier companies such as UPS or FedEx. USOs such as daily delivery of mail to remote areas without extra charges aim at guaranteeing universal access to basic services at affordable prices.

11. TTIP and CETA threaten to limit the freedom of public utilities to produce and distribute energy according to public interest goals, for example, by supporting renewables to combat climate change. Very few EU member states have explicitly reserved their right to adopt certain measures with regard to the production of electricity and local energy distribution networks in the trade deals.

12. The US is eyeing the opening up of the education market via TTIP – from management training, and language courses, to high school admission tests. US education firms on the European market such as Laureate Education, the Apollo Group, and the Kaplan Group could benefit as much as German media conglomerate Bertelsmann, which has recently bought a stake in US-based online education provider Udacity.

13. The US film industry wants TTIP to remove European content quotas and other support schemes for the local film industry (for example, in Poland, France, Spain, and Italy). Lobby groups like the Motion Picture Association of America (MPPA) and the US government have therefore opposed the exclusion of audiovisual services from the EU’s TTIP mandate, fought for by the French Government. They are now trying to limit the exception as much as possible, for example, by excluding broadcasting from the concept of audiovisual services – seemingly with the support of EU industry groups like BusinessEurope and the European Commission.

14. Financial investors such as BlackRock engaged in European public services could use TTIP and CETA provisions on financial services and investment protection to defend their interests against ‘burdensome’ regulations, for example, to improve working conditions in the long term care sector. Lobby groups like TheCityUK, representing the financial services industry based in the UK, are pushing heavily for a “comprehensive” TTIP, which “should cover all aspects of the transatlantic economy”.

15. US services companies are also lobbying for TTIP to tackle ‘trade barriers’ such as labour regulations. For example US company Home Instead, a leading provider of home care services for seniors operating franchises in several EU member states, wants TTIP to address “inflexible labour laws” which oblige the firm to offer its part-time employees “extensive benefits including paid vacations” which it claims “unnecessarily inflate the costs of home care”.

The full report can be accessed here.

Colin Todhunter is an independent writer.

  Read New Report On Secretive EU Trade Deals Highlights Corrupt Agenda For Mass Privatisation
 October 12, 2015
US Is The Largest Historical Polluter: Capitan America Unmasks US Climate “Action”

by Farooque Chowdhury, Countercurrents.org

Climate crisis (2C) is deepening with each passing day. Capitalism's dominance makes it harder to counter the 2C. At the same time, a lack of actual initiative bewilders the aware part of society. “The sad fact is that the inconvenient truth is not that climate change is happening, but that what we are doing is too little and too late”, write Sunita Narain and Chandra Bhushan of the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), New Delhi, in the recently released CSE report Capitan America, US climate goals: a reckoning. The report assesses US-climate position, and unmasks the gap between US words and work. The gap is a grim reality.

Capitalist economy is the main culprit behind the crisis. The system's interests stand against countering the 2C. And, the US, today's principal imperialist power, plays its role, appropriate to its position. “The US”, finds the Capitan America, “is largest historical polluter; 2nd largest emitter annually; has very high per capita CO2.”

A necessary fact that very often gets obscured by imperialist propaganda is told in the report: The people in the US “cannot be fed the story, repeated by their leaders and the powerful media of the free world, that it is the emissions of China and India that are frying the world. The American people cannot be told that they needn't act, because other countries — opting for the right to development — refuse to make a move. The ‘right to development' of the poor, who need carbon space and ecological space for their growth, cannot be equated with the ‘right to pollute' of the rich. The burden of transition cannot be shifted because the rich of the world are rich and so powerful.” Unfortunately, friends of the imperialist camp in the periphery of the world system “forget” to raise this issue: the rich-poor gap, the burden the rich create, the over-burdened poor can no more be burdened. With this “forgetfulness”, these friends confirm their identity: comprador. A comprador gets benefits from master.

This comprador-fact gets outlined in the report as the CSE-leaders write the bitter sentences: “Raising the issue of America's lack of action, we really fear, might justify similar renegade steps from countries like India. Everybody will use the US as a cloak. Argue: first the US, then us. This is not our intention. As environmentalists, we are pushing our government to take aggressive steps to reduce emissions, not only because it is in the interest of the world, but also because it is in our interest to do what we can to re-invent growth without pollution.”

Here, the messages are: [1] Aggressive steps to reduce emissions, and [2] growth without pollution. These two steps are related to fundamental political and economic issues. 

Shall the rulers, the elites with their thrones on the heads of the multitude take real-life action other then sermonizing the poor people, and stop demolishing the essential climate space? No, never until this group is compelled. They can't. Their survival is dependent on this act of demolishing the climate-space, an act of loot. 

These looters copy their masters, and influence others in the broader society. “US lifestyle and consumption patterns are”, write Sunita and Chandra, “aspirational and addictive. Quite simply, everybody wants to be an American. Every citizen of the developing world wants to either live in America or live like an American.”

The 9-chapter report by CSE, the internationally renowned organization, presents “a few inconvenient truths … that might throw cold water on the celebration” with the US Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC). “The US climate action plan”, write Sunita and Chandra, authors of the report, “is dramatic. But it is neither ambitious nor equitable. Worse, it is but business-as-usual. If implemented, we have analysed, emissions reduction will be marginal. Whatever reduction is achieved, whether due to increased efficiency or a shift in fossil fuel use, will be run over by runaway gluttonous consumption.” The climate-policy researchers conclude: “for the sake of the world's future”, “American lifestyle can no longer remain not-negotiable.”

Sunita and Chandra sound caustic as they write a few bitter, but undeniable facts: “Our friends in US civil society are sure to accuse us of playing into the hands of the Republican Party — that fearsome free-market gang of raucous climate sceptics. … [F]or many years now, we have been told, by our same friends in the US civil society, that we must always fear the return of the Republicans, for they will destroy even the vestige of US climate change policy. And when a Democrat president is elected, the advice is we need to ‘tone down', be pragmatic and allow that ‘liberal' person to steer the climate course. Actually, for many years, their Game of Thrones has held us to ransom. Decades have gone, and deadly greenhouse gas emissions still continue to rise. … So, it is time we stopped tiptoeing around the US. It is time to call a spade a spade: US obduracy on climate change has ensured the world today is in the danger zone and will go critical soon. Since 1992, when the framework convention on climate change was signed, the US has played offense — finger pointing at others and justifying its own lack of action. It is time the rest of us stopped playing defense.”

With this reality of imperialist onslaught on climate, the world power bargains with others. Its claims and pronouncements are full with propaganda, full with inaction, full with actions that aggravate the 2C.  The CSE report exposes this US-reality as Capitan America presents many useful US-economy facts that include:

The perception is that after peaking in 2005, US total greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) have been reducing. Not true.

Compared to 1990 levels, GHG emissions are up 6 per cent.

In 1990-2013, carbon dioxide emissions are up 7.4 per cent. Carbon-dioxide emissions comprise 82 per cent of all US GHG emissions.

The US INDC tells: it will reduce GHG emissions 26-28 per cent below 2005 levels by 2025. Just by using 2005 as its baseline year, the US has avoided cutting 500 million metric tonnes of GHG emissions.

On a 1990 baseline the US will reduce emissions by a mere 13-15 per cent by 2025. This is even lower than what it had pledged in 2010 in the Cancun climate meet, and in percentage as well as absolute terms, the US INDC is far less ambitious than that of the EU-28.

The US INDC says: it will depend on land use, land use changes and forestry (LULUCF) to reduce emissions. By so doing, it has avoided cutting 250 million metric tonnes of GHG emissions by 2025.

The report tears down a number of masks:

Mask 1: 2005 base year and not 1990: “Cleverly used 2005 as base year [as] it allowed emissions to grow, whereas as per Kyoto Protocol it should have cut. If the US had reduced emissions 26-28% below 1990 (and not 2005) levels by 2025, it would have to cut emissions in 2030 by an additional 500 MMTCO2e. So by changing the base year, it will emit 4700 MMTCO2e instead of 4200 MMTCO2e by 2030.”

Mask 2: Hiding behind forests: “About 14% of US emissions is sequestered by forests – roughly 900 MMTCO2e. In 2005, the US emitted 7,350 MMTCO2e of GHG, but by including carbon sinks of about 900 MMTCO2e in forests, it has reduced its net GHG emissions to 6,438 MMTCO2e. If the US had agreed to reduce its emissions by 26-28% excluding LULUCF, it would have had to cut 250 MMTCO2e more GHG in 2025. By changing base year and including LULUCF, the US will emit 750 MMTCO2e more in 2030.” Hence, the report throws a question: “Ambitious or creative accounting?”

The report says: The US INDC isn't equitable. It, then poses the following question: Is the US putting in places policies to move its economy towards low carbon? The report finds: “The US economy is not moving towards low-carbon growth.”

The report misses a basic fact: With dominating interests intact, the economy can't take a different turn unless pressed. The pressure can come either from its survival question or from people. The survival question has a number of aspects: diminishing [1] rate of profit, [2] prospect of self sustainability, [3] preys – labor and nature – on which it survives. Prospect of higher profit through a different approach – alternative energy, advancement in science, technology – can make its business as usual (BAU) less profitable. This will create pressure on its BAU. An aware peoples' movement/political initiative can press it.       

The 132-page report says: “The US remains fossil addicted. It now produces more gas than Russia and more oil than Saudi Arabia. Its coal use has stagnated; but still per capita coal use is 5 times higher than India. The US economy consumes more fossil fuels than in 1990 while its use of renewables is marginal.” The economy is to continue its fossil addiction as the addiction is profitable to it. This addiction is its “famous way of life”, an essential condition to continue with higher profit rate.

The report presents further facts as it says: Fuel Switch – from coal to gas – has happened in the US economy as it's cheaper (average power plant operating costs) to operate gas plants. So the CSE report says: “The US Clean Power Plan is nothing more than business as usual. Switch to natural gas from coal happening because it is cheaper to produce and consume. The economy will, in fact, consume more energy and not less by 2030. Recent scientific evidence suggests that methane emissions could be much higher in gas. Switch to natural gas will delay the transition to renewable. So, in 2030, US will remain fossil fuel addicted.”

The climate policy researchers tell a fact overlooked by many: “What is even more worrying is that the US plan is largely based on improvement in efficiency. This is not enough. Our data analysis shows clearly that gains made by improvements in efficiency are being lost because of increased consumption – sector after sector.”

As the CSE leaders raise the crucial question of consumption, the question of capitalist economy comes. Sunita and Chandra write: “The world — the US and us — cannot combat climate change without changing the way we drive, build homes or consume goods.” The dominating way is the capitalist consumption.

Consumption pattern is not the same everywhere and in every case. It differs even in the US. It differs in all resource-rich and resource-poor lands. All rich capitalist countries don't have same consumption pattern. What the poor in the US consume is far, far less than the rich part of the US society. The poor simply doesn't have the power to consume a lot. Their consumption is a story of simple survival, an utmost effort for mere passing of everyday. Even the social group in the middle of the US society virtually struggles everyday to have a life free from all sorts of worries and uncertainties. It's not only the US-story. It's the story in all lands. The researchers point out a very essential fact: “We have ... pointed out our worry about the lack of critique, indeed the tendency towards self-censorship and restraint in advocating big solutions, we found in the work of big and powerful US civil society groups. For instance, these groups are asking — rightly — for car restraints in many parts of the developing world. But in the US, they still push fuel economy standards and, at most, hybrid cars as the panacea to climate ills. There is no bus rapid transit (BRT) being built in the US, where over 70-80 per cent people commute to work in cars. This is where practice must also happen ...” The fact-rich CSE report is a necessary reading for building up a clear understanding of the climate crisis. All aspects and questions related to the 2C can't be covered by a single report. One can cite that as a limitation of the report.    Farooque Chowdhury, a free lancer, writes from Dhaka.

  Read US Is The Largest Historical Polluter: Capitan America Unmasks US Climate Action
 September 17, 2015
Air Pollution Kills More People Than HIV/AIDS

by Steve Connor, Independent, UK

Air pollution from outdoor sources kills about 3.3 million people per year worldwide and the numbers are likely to double by 2050 even if every country imposes existing air-quality legislation, a study has found.

Scientists have estimated that outdoor air quality is leading to millions of premature deaths especially in east and south Asia as a result of emissions of damaging microscopic particles into the air that penetrate deep into the lungs.

Most of the air pollutants in Asia come from the burning of fuel for heating and cooking. The estimates do not include the number of deaths from indoor pollution, estimated to be another 3 million or so each year, the scientists said.

While emissions from heating and cooking are most important in India and China, the greatest impact in the United States is from traffic and power-generation pollution whilst in Europe it is mainly from agricultural emissions due to the use of fertilizers, which produces ammonia, the study found.

The researchers used computer models to estimate the health impacts of a range of outdoor air pollutants such as ozone and tiny particles less than 0.0025mm wide, which are known to cause cardiovascular problems and lung disease, said Jos Lelieveld of the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry in Mainz, Germany, who led the study published in the journal Nature.

“The total number of people who die worldwide together from HIV/AIDS and malaria is 2.8 million per year. So that is half a million less than from air pollution, which is a very significant source of premature mortality,” Dr. Lelieveld said.

The model predicts that if there is “business as usual” and no significant tightening of pollution laws, the mortality rate from outdoor air pollution could jump to 6.6 million deaths per year by 2050, with most of them occurring in Southeast Asia.

“This means a doubling of the number. If this growth in particulate matter is to be avoided, intensive control measures need to be implemented especially in south and east Asia,” Dr. Lelieveld said.

“Our study clearly shows that it’s important to reduce pollution from residential energy use, especially in Asia,” he said.

Some of the most dangerous air pollutants in the U.K. come from mixing traffic fumes with the agricultural pollutants, which causes reactive particles that can penetrate deep into the lungs, Dr. Lelieveld said.

“Much of the particulates in cities like London are actually coming from outside the city,” he said.


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Steve Connor is the science editor at The Independent UK.

  Read Air Pollution Kills More People Than HIV/AIDS
 September 25, 2015
Pope Francis Castigates World Elite at U.N., Links Environmental Destruction and 'Social Exclusion'

by Reynard Loki, AlterNet

On Friday, Pope Francis addressed the United Nations at the opening of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development at the World Summit. As expected, he called for action on climate change. But he also reframed the debate, casting the climate issue as being intimately connected with the ongoing and seemingly intractable problem of social exclusion. He said:

Today’s world presents us with many false rights and – at the same time – broad sectors which are vulnerable, victims of power badly exercised: for example, the natural environment and the vast ranks of the excluded. These sectors are closely interconnected and made increasingly fragile by dominant political and economic relationships. That is why their rights must be forcefully affirmed, by working to protect the environment and by putting an end to exclusion.
The dramatic reality this whole situation of exclusion and inequality, with its evident effects, has led me, in union with the entire Christian people and many others, to take stock of my grave responsibility in this regard and to speak out, together with all those who are seeking urgently-needed and effective solutions.

He castigated those among the world's elite who have sought to accumulate wealth and power at the expense of the environment and their fellow man:

The misuse and destruction of the environment are also accompanied by a relentless process of exclusion. In effect, a selfish and boundless thirst for power and material prosperity leads both to the misuse of available natural resources and to the exclusion of the weak and disadvantaged, either because they are differently abled (handicapped), or because they lack adequate information and technical expertise, or are incapable of decisive political action. Economic and social exclusion is a complete denial of human fraternity and a grave offense against human rights and the environment. The poorest are those who suffer most from such offenses, for three serious reasons: they are cast off by society, forced to live off what is discarded and suffer unjustly from the abuse of the environment. They are part of today’s widespread and quietly growing “culture of waste."

His sentiments echoed "Our Common Future," the landmark 1987 document from the United Nations World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED) that offered the first modern definition of the concept of sustainable development. Also known as the Brundtland Report in recognition of former Norwegian Prime Minister Gro Harlem Brundtland's role as Chair of the WCED, the document argued for a global development process that meets "the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs." Central to the process is reducing poverty and disadvantage — socially, economically and politically — as well as not depleting natural resources in order to protect future generations.


Pope Francis is welcomed by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and receives flower bouquets from children of UN staff members at the start of his visit to UN headquarters. (image: Mark Garten/United Nations)

The Pope also connected human rights to environmental rights, personalizing the climate issue by contextualizing our own individual, physical bodies within the global environment:

First, it must be stated that a true “right of the environment” does exist, for two reasons. First, because we human beings are part of the environment. We live in communion with it, since the environment itself entails ethical limits which human activity must acknowledge and respect. Man, for all his remarkable gifts, which “are signs of a uniqueness which transcends the spheres of physics and biology,” is at the same time a part of these spheres. He possesses a body shaped by physical, chemical and biological elements, and can only survive and develop if the ecological environment is favourable. Any harm done to the environment, therefore, is harm done to humanity. Second, because every creature, particularly a living creature, has an intrinsic value, in its existence, its life, its beauty and its interdependence with other creatures. We Christians, together with the other monotheistic religions, believe that the universe is the fruit of a loving decision by the Creator, who permits man respectfully to use creation for the good of his fellow men and for the glory of the Creator; he is not authorized to abuse it, much less to destroy it. In all religions, the environment is a fundamental good.

Though he described a bleak reality, the Pope remained positive, calling the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development "an important sign of hope" and was "confident" that the upcoming Paris climate talks in December " will secure fundamental and effective agreements." However, he was careful to remind the delegates that words are ultimately meaningless. "Solemn commitments…are not enough," he said. "Our world demands of all government leaders a will which is effective, practical and constant, concrete steps and immediate measures for preserving and improving the natural environment and thus putting an end as quickly as possible to the phenomenon of social and economic exclusion."


Pope Francis delivers a speech at the United Nations Headquarters in New York. (image: Amanda Voisard/Eskinder Debebe/Rick Bajornas/Mark Garten/United Nations)

In Laudato Si, the Pope's encyclical on the environment that he issued this summer, he wrote, "A sense of deep communion with the rest of nature cannot be real if our hearts lack tenderness, compassion and concern for our fellow human beings."

The Pope's acute understanding of the interconnectedness of things — between people and the environment, between the fight against climate change and the fight for social inclusion, between compassion and communion — echoes that of Thomas Merton, the late Trappist monk and social activist whom the Pope included, along with Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Dorothy Day, in his "Mount Rushmore of Catholicism" during his speech to Congress on Thursday.

In his final address, during a conference on East-West monastic dialogue, delivered just two hours before his death on December 10, 1968, Merton said, "The whole idea of compassion is based on a keen awareness of the interdependence of all these living beings, which are all part of one another, and all involved in one another."

As negotiators prepare for the U.N. climate meeting in Paris in December — which has been described as our last, best hope in the climate change fight — they would do well to heed the words of Pope Francis and Thomas Merton and understand that the goal of a universal, meaningful and equitable climate agreement can only be achieved if compassion is also on the agenda.

5 Reasons Pope Francis' Encyclical on the Environment Matters

Fossil Fuel Front Group Makes Ridiculous Attack on the Pope

he Dalai Lama Endorses Pope Francis’ Climate Change Encyclical

Don't Frack With the Pope: Faith Leaders Say It's Our Moral Duty to Ban Fracking

  Read Pope Francis Castigates World Elite at U.N., Links Environmental Destruction and Social Exclusion
 October 1, 2015
There Are Half as Many Fish in the World's Oceans as There Were in 1970

by Ari Solomon, Mercy for Animals

A disturbing new report from the World Wildlife Fund and the Zoological Society of London reveals that the number of fish and other aquatic animals dropped 49 percent between 1970 and 2012.

And some fish populations have been hit even harder: tunas, mackerels, and bonitos have fallen by 74 percent.
According to the research, the primary cause of the massive die-off is overfishing. Climate change, which is causing the world’s oceans to acidify and change temperature, is also a major problem.
Commercial fishing indiscriminately kills billions of aquatic animals each year and about 20 percent are “by-catch,” or animals considered undesirable for consumption. As a result, 20 billion fish are thrown away like trash each year.
As for climate change, the business of raising and killing animals for food produces more greenhouse gases than all the transportation in the world combined.
With harrowing predictions that all the world’s fisheries will collapse by 2048, we truly stand at a crossroads: either we can continue down this destructive path or begin to change course.

There’s no question that leaving animals off our plates is the most powerful choice each of us can make to help fish populations rebound.

Too Warm, Too Few Fish: Health Warning for World’s Oceans

The Acid Oceans of Our Future

Are You a Victim of Fish Fraud? New Program Will Make It Easier to Check

There’s a One-in-Four Chance the Fish You Just Ordered Contains Plastic


Ari Solomon serves as the director of communications at Mercy For Animals, a national non-profit farmed animal protection organization. Ari has appeared widely on national television and radio to discuss a range of subjects from veganism to civil rights, including appearances on CNN, Reuters TV, NPR, and HuffPost Live. Ari’s YouTube videos on animal rights and veganism have also become viral sensations, including Sh*t Vegans Say, with over 1 million views.

  Read There Are Half as Many Fish in the World's Oceans as There Were in 1970
 October 7, 2015
Why Women Are Key to Solving the Climate Crisis

by Kyla Mandel, DeSmogBlog

On September 29, women from around the world mobilized to call for action on climate change as international leaders met in New York at the United Nations General Assembly.

“There is no climate justice without gender justice,” the movement argues. Solutions and policy demands will be presented in New York City as part of the Global Women’s Climate Justice Day of Action in an effort to highlight the reality that while women are among those most severely vulnerable to the effects of climate change, women are also the “key to creating climate solutions.”

The aim is to get political officials to agree “equitable, immediate, and bold action on climate change” as we enter the final two months before the COP21 climate change negotiations in Paris in December. At this time, the Women’s Climate Declaration will be presented to world governments.

Connecting Women

Women around the world are facing the impacts of the climate crisis every day,” said Osprey Orielle Lake, co-founder and executive director of the Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network, which helped organize the event. “We are issuing a wake-up call to the world that the time has come for bold action to address the roots of the climate crisis, with women’s leadership at the forefront.”


Omnia Abdallah, WECAN MENA, Khartoum, Sudan (image: Women's Earth & Climate Action Network International)

Among the women speaking at the event in New York are Mary Robinson, the UN special envoy on climate change, and May Boeve, head of climate campaign group 350.org. Other leading international women speaking includeJacqui Patterson, director of theNAACP Environmental and Climate Justice Program, Melina Laboucan-Massimo, First Nations and anti-tar sands activist, Jody Williams, American political activist and Nobel Prize laureate, and Patricia Gualinga, international relations director for the indigenous community of Sarayaku in Ecuador.

As Orielle Lake explained, the day of action is “about connecting women working on vital climate projects around the globe. It is about bringing our passion and determination to the surface and manifesting our vulnerabilities and fierce strengths.”


Melissa S. United States (image: Women's Earth & Climate Action Network, International)

According to the U.N., women form a disproportionately large share of the poor. In rural areas and developing countries women are typically the ones responsible for securing water, food and energy for cooking and heating — this dependence on local natural resources makes them highly vulnerable to climate impacts, including drought, uncertain rainfall and deforestation.

And, compared to men in poor countries, women face historical disadvantages such as limited access to decision-making and economic assets, and this further increases the challenges of climate change.

Global Action

This is why it is not just in New York City that women are mobilizing. Throughout September, women in over 30 countries have been holding events calling for change.

For example, in the Niger Delta region of West Africa, women held a summit on gender and oil. Meanwhile, in the Amazon Rainforest indigenous women protested fossil fuel extraction in their territories. And, in Canada documentary photography depicts women from across the country seeking to protect water from pollution.

As the U.N. argues, it is “imperative that a gender analysis be applied to all actions on climate change and that gender experts are consulted in climate change processes at all levels, so that women's and men’s specific needs and priorities are identified and addressed.”


Hala Alhaffar. Damascus, Syria

In addition to asking for a transition away from fossil fuels, protection of our forests and oceans, and increased funding for adaptation, the Women’s Climate Declaration lays out a series of gender-conscious demands. These include: a gender-responsive climate change policy and program; recognizing that gender-sensitive climate policy benefits men, women, children and the planet; and respecting and learning from the traditional ecological knowledge, wisdom and experience of the world’s indigenous peoples.

It argues: “Unsustainable consumption and production reverses development gains in the global North and the global South: Women and men of industrialized nations have a responsibility to educate themselves, examine their worldviews, commit to action, and lead by example.

No one person, organization, community, province, region, or nation is capable of solving the challenge of climate change alone. This is a time for collaboration at a global level as never before required."

Women in a Warming World: How Gender Equality and Climate Change Are Connected

Jane Fonda Joins Canadian Activists Calling for Climate Justice, Jobs and an End to Tar Sands Mining

Environmental Racism Has Long Been Ignored by the EPA, but Not Anymore


Kyla Mandel is Deputy Editor of DeSmog UK. Follow her on Twitter @kylamandel.

  Read Why Women Are Key to Solving the Climate Crisis
 October 8, 2015
Welcome to a New Planet: Climate Change 'Tipping Points' and the Fate of the Earth

by Michael T. Klare, TomDispatch

To stay on top of important articles like these, sign up to receive the latest updates from TomDispatch.com  here.

Not so long ago, it was science fiction. Now, it’s hard science -- and that should frighten us all. The latest reports from the prestigious and sober Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) make increasingly hair-raising reading, suggesting that the planet is approaching possible moments of irreversible damage in a fashion and at a speed that had not been anticipated.

Scientists have long worried that climate change will not continue to advance in a “linear” fashion, with the planet getting a little bit hotter most years.  Instead, they fear, humanity could someday experience “non-linear” climate shifts (also known as “singularities” or “tipping points”) after which there would be sudden and irreversible change of a catastrophic nature.  This was the premise of the 2004 climate-disaster film The Day After Tomorrow.  In that movie -- most notable for its vivid scenes of a frozen-over New York City -- melting polar ice causes a disruption in the North Atlantic Current, which in turn triggers a series of catastrophic storms and disasters.  At the time of its release, many knowledgeable scientists derided the film’s premise, insisting that the confluence of events it portrayed was unlikely or simply impossible.

Fast forward 11 years and the prospect of such calamitous tipping points in the North Atlantic or elsewhere no longer looks improbable.  In fact, climate scientists have begun to note early indicators of possible catastrophes.

Take the disruption of the North Atlantic Current, the pivotal event in The Day After Tomorrow.  Essentially an extension of the Gulf Stream, that deep-sea current carries relatively warm salty water from the South Atlantic and the Caribbean to the northern reaches of the Atlantic.  In the process, it helps keep Europe warmer than it would otherwise be.  Once its salty water flows into sub-Arctic areas carried by this prolific stream, it gets colder and heavier, sinks to lower depths, and starts a return trip to warmer climes in the south where the whole process begins again.

So long as this “global conveyor belt” -- known to scientists as the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation, or AMOC -- keeps functioning, the Gulf Stream will also continue to bring warmer waters to the eastern United States and Europe.  Should it be disrupted, however, the whole system might break down, in which case the Euro-Atlantic climate could turn colder and more storm-prone.  Such a disruption might occur if the vast Greenland ice sheet melts in a significant way, as indeed is already beginning to happen today, pouring large quantities of salt-free fresh water into the Atlantic Ocean.  Because of its lighter weight, this newly introduced water will remain close to the surface, preventing the submergence of salty water from the south and so effectively shutting down the conveyor belt.  Indeed, exactly this process now seems to be underway.

By all accounts, 2015 is likely to wind up as the hottest year on record, with large parts of the world suffering from severe heat waves and wildfires.  Despite all this, however, a stretch of the North Atlantic below Iceland and Greenland is experiencing all-time cold temperatures, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.  What explains this anomaly?  According to scientists from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and Pennsylvania State University, among other institutions, the most likely explanation is the arrival in the area of cold water from the Greenland ice sheet that is melting ever more rapidly thanks to climate change.  Because this meltwater starts out salt-free, it has remained near the surface and so, as predicted, is slowing the northern advance of warmer water from the North Atlantic Current.

So far, the AMOC has not suffered a dramatic shutdown, but it is slowing, and scientists worry that a rapid increase in Greenland ice melt as the Arctic continues to warm will pour ever more meltwater into the North Atlantic, severely disrupting the conveyor system.  That would, indeed, constitute a major tipping point, with severe consequences for Europe and eastern North America.  Not only would Europe experience colder temperatures on an otherwise warmer planet, but coastal North America could witness higher sea levels than those predicted from climate change alone because the Gulf Stream tends to pull sea water away from the eastern U.S. and push it toward Europe.  If it were to fail, rising sea levels could endanger cities like New York and Boston.  Indeed, scientists discovered that just such a slowing of the AMOC helped produce a sea-level rise of four inches from New York to Newfoundland in 2009 and 2010.

In its 2014 report on the status of global warming, the IPCC indicated that the likelihood of the AMOC collapsing before the end of this century remains relatively low.  But some studies suggest that the conveyor system is already 15%-20% below normal with Greenland’s melting still in an early stage.  Once that process switches into high gear, the potential for the sort of breakdown that was once science fiction starts to look all too real.

Tipping Points on the Horizon

In a 2014 report, “Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability,” Working Group II of the IPCC identified three other natural systems already showing early-warning signs of catastrophic tipping points: the Arctic, coral reefs, and the Amazonian forest.  All three, the report suggested, could experience massive and irreversible changes with profound implications for human societies.

The Arctic comes in for particular scrutiny because it has experienced more warming than any other region on the planet and because the impact of climate change there is already so obvious.  As the report put it, “For the Arctic region, new evidence indicates a biophysical regime shift is taking place, with cascading impacts on physical systems, ecosystems, and human livelihoods.”

This has begun with a massive melt of sea ice in the region and a resulting threat to native marine species.  “For Arctic marine biota,” the report notes, “the rapid reduction of summer ice covers causes a tipping element that is now severely affecting pelagic [sub-surface] ecosystems as well as ice-dependent mammals such as seals and polar bears.”  Other flora and fauna of the Arctic biome are also demonstrating stress related to climate change.  For example, vast areas of tundra are being invaded by shrubs and small trees, decimating the habitats of some animal species and increasing the risk of fires.

This Arctic “regime shift” affects many other aspects of the ecosystem as well.  Higher temperatures, for instance, have meant widespread thawing and melting of permafrost, the frozen soil and water that undergirds much of the Arctic landmass.  In this lies another possible tipping-point danger, since frozen soils contain more than twice the carbon now present in the atmosphere.  As the permafrost melts, some of this carbon is released in the form of methane, a potent greenhouse gas with many times the warming potential of carbon dioxide and other such gases.  In other words, as the IPCC noted, any significant melting of Arctic permafrost will “create a potentially strong positive feedback to accelerate Arctic (and global) warming.”  This, in fact, could prove to be more than a tipping point.  It could be a planetary catastrophe.

Along with these biophysical effects, the warming of the Arctic is threatening the livelihoods and lifestyles of the indigenous peoples of the region.  The loss of summer sea ice, for example, has endangered the marine species on which many such communities depend for food and the preservation of their cultural traditions.  Meanwhile, melting permafrost and coastal erosion due to sea-level rise have threatened the very existence of their coastal villages.  In September, President Obama visited Kotzebue, a village in Alaska some 30 miles above the Arctic Circle that could disappear as a result of melting permafrost, rising sea levels, and ever bigger storm surges.

Coral Reefs at Risk

Another crucial ecosystem that's showing signs of heading toward an irreversible tipping point is the world's constellation of coral reefs.  Remarkably enough, although such reefs make up less than 1% of the Earth’s surface area, they house up to 25% of all marine life.  They are, that is, essential for both the health of the oceans and of fishing communities, as well as of those who depend on fish for a significant part of their diet.  According to one estimate, some 850 million people rely on coral reefs for their food security.

Corals, which are colonies of tiny animals related to sea anemones, have proven highly sensitive to changes in the acidity and temperature of their surrounding waters, both of which are rising due to the absorption of excess carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.  As a result, in a visually dramatic process called “bleaching,” coral populations have been dying out globally.  According to a recent study by the Worldwide Fund for Nature, coral reef extent has declined by 50% in the last 30 years and all reefs could disappear as early as 2050 if current rates of ocean warming and acidification continue.

“This irreversible loss of biodiversity,” reports the IPCC, will have “significant consequences for regional marine ecosystems as well as the human livelihoods that depend on them.”  Indeed, the growing evidence of such losses “strengthens the conclusion that increased mass bleaching of corals constitutes a strong warning signal for the singular event that would constitute the irreversible loss of an entire biome.”

Amazonian Dry-Out

The Amazon has long been viewed as the epitome of a tropical rainforest, with extraordinary plant and animal diversity.  The Amazonian tree cover also plays a vital role in reducing the pace of global warming by absorbing vast amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere during the process of photosynthesis.  For years, however, the Amazon has been increasingly devastated by a process of deforestation, as settlers from Brazil’s coastal regions clear land for farming and ranching, and loggers (many operating illegally) harvest timber for wood products.  Now, as if to add insult to injury, the region faces a new threat from climate change: tree mortality due to a rise in severe drought and the increased forest fire risk that accompanies it.

Although it can rain year-round in the Amazon region, there is a distinct wet season with heavy rainfall and a dry season with much less of it.  An extended dry season with little rain can endanger the survival of many trees and increase the risk of wildfires.  Research conducted by scientists at the University of Texas has found that the dry season in the southern Amazonian region has grown by a week every decade since 1980 while the annual fire season has lengthened.  “The dry season over the southern Amazon is already marginal for maintaining rainforest,” says Rong Fu, the leader of the research team. “At some point, if it becomes too long, the rainforest will reach a tipping point” and disappear.

Because the Amazon harbors perhaps the largest array of distinctive flora and fauna on the planet, its loss would represent an irreversible blow to global biodiversity.  In addition, the region hosts some of the largest assemblages of indigenous peoples still practicing their traditional ways of life.  Even if their lives were saved (through relocation to urban slums or government encampments), the loss of their cultures, representing thousands of years of adaptation to a demanding environment, would be a blow for all humankind.

As in the case of the Arctic and coral reefs, the collapse of the Amazon will have what the IPCC terms “cascading impacts,” devastating ecosystems, diminishing biodiversity, and destroying the ways of life of indigenous peoples.  Worse yet, as with the melting of the Arctic, so the drying-out of Amazonia is likely to feed into climate change, heightening its intensity and so sparking yet more tipping points on a planet increasingly close to the brink.

In its report, the IPCC, whose analysis tends, if anything, to be on the conservative side of climate science, indicated that the Amazon faced a relatively low risk of dying out by 2100.  However, a 2009 study conducted by Britain’s famed Meteorological (Met) Office suggests that the risk is far greater than previously assumed.  Even if global temperatures were to be held to an increase of 2 degrees Celsius, the study notes, as much as 40% of the Amazon would perish within a century; with 3 degrees of warming, up to 75% would vanish; and with 4 degrees, 85% would die.  “The forest as we know it would effectively be gone,” said Met researcher Vicky Pope.

Of Tipping Points and Singularities

These four natural systems are by no means the only ones that could face devastating tipping points in the years to come.  The IPCC report and other scientific studies hint at further biomes that show early signs of potential catastrophe.  But these four are sufficiently advanced to tell us that we need to look at climate change in a new way: not as a slow, linear process to which we can adapt over time, but as a non-linear set of events involving dramatic and irreversible changes to the global ecosphere.

The difference is critical: linear change gives us the luxury of time to devise and implement curbs on greenhouse gas emissions, and to construct protective measures such as sea walls.  Non-linear change puts a crimp on time and confronts us with the possibility of relatively sudden, devastating climate shifts against which no defensive measures can protect us.

Were the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation to fail, for example, there would be nothing we could do to turn it back on, nor would we be able to recreate coral reefs or resurrect the Amazon.  Add in one other factor: when natural systems of this magnitude fail, should we not expect human systems to fail as well?  No one can answer this question with certainty, but we do know that earlier human societies collapsed when faced with other kinds of profound changes in climate.

All of this should be on the minds of delegates to the upcoming climate summit in Paris, a meeting focused on adopting an international set of restrictions on greenhouse gas emissions. Each participating nation is obliged to submit a set of measures it is ready to take, known as “intended nationally determined contributions,” or INDCs, aimed at achieving the overall goal of preventing planetary warming from exceeding 2 degrees Celsius.  However, the INDCs submitted to date, including those from the United States and China, suggest a distinctly incremental approach to the problem.  Unfortunately, if planetary tipping points are in our future, this mindset will not measure up.  It’s time to start thinking instead in terms of civilizational survival.

Michael T. Klare, a TomDispatch regular, is a professor of peace and world security studies at Hampshire College and the author, most recently, of The Race for What’s Left.  A documentary movie version of his book Blood and Oil is available from the Media Education Foundation.

  Read Welcome to a New Planet: Climate Change Tipping Points and the Fate of the Earth
 October 6, 2015
Honeybees Are Facing a Global Threat, and If They Go, So Do We

by Reynard Loki, AlterNet

“There is one masterpiece, the hexagonal cell, that touches perfection. No living creature, not even man, has achieved, in the centre of his sphere, what the bee has achieved in her own: and were some one from another world to descend and ask of the earth the most perfect creation of the logic of life, we should needs have to offer the humble comb of honey.”— Maurice Maeterlinck, The Life of the Bee, 1924

What is the most important animal to humans? In prehistoric times, the dog helped transform early hunter-gatherers into apex predators. Later, human civilization was built on the backs of horses. But starting around 11,500 years ago, when humans began making permanent settlements and invented agriculture, bees emerged as the most critical animal to human survival.

By pollinating crops around the world, honeybees feed more than 7 billion people today. Most of the food that we eat (and all of our cotton) is produced in part by the hard work of bees. In her 2011 book The Beekeeper’s Lament, journalist Hannah Nordhaus described honeybees as “the glue that holds our agricultural system together."


Worker bees on honeycomb cells (image: StudioSmart/Shutterstock)

The importance of bees isn't limited to humans, of course. By promoting the reproduction of angiosperms, or flowering plants, bees are also central to the survival of countless other animal species that rely on those plants and their fruits to survive. In fact, Earth's entire planetary ecology has been shaped by bees. Since they first evolved from wasps some 100 million years ago, bees have driven the evolution of plant life.

Sadly, in recent times, we have not treated our bee friends well. The use of pesticides — neonicotinoids in particular, which are commonly used on corn, soybean, canola and cereal, as well as many fruits and vegetables — have killed an estimated 250 million bees in a just a few years. Applied to plants, neonics travel through the plant's vascular system and appear in roots, pollen and nectar that then are tranferred to bees and their colonies, as well as other untargeted and vulnerable species, from earthworms to birds and even bats.

In a 2012 interview, conservation biologist and bee expert Dr. Reese Halter, host of the PBS Nature television series "Dr. Reese's Planet," said, "The bees are trying to tell us something very clearly. The way we are operating ... isn't working. We've lost a quarter of a trillion honeybees, which have died prematurely in the last four years." This dramatic decline of the bee population has been ascribed to Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), a combination of deadly effects, including pathogens, parasites and pesticides that have been decimating beehives since at least 2006.

Last month, the Bee Informed Partnership, an academic non-profit supported by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, released the results of its annual survey of more than 6,000 American beekeepers. They found that northern beekeepers lost almost half (48 percent) of their managed colonies between April 2014 and April 2015. Southern beekeepers lost 37 percent of their colonies over the same period.

Bee colony decline in the U.S. Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture

Killing bees, killing ourselves

A growing body of scientific evidence has pointed to one of the culprits of bee deaths: a nicotine-based class of pesticides known as neonicotinoids, also called neonics. In January, an international multidisciplinary team of 30 scientists, the Task Force on Systemic Pesticides, reviewed 1,121 peer-reviewed papers published over the past five years, including those sponsored by industry. In their report, the Worldwide Integrated Assessment of the Impact of Systemic Pesticides on Biodiversity and Ecosystems (WIA), the scientists concluded that "current large-scale prophylactic use of systemic insecticides is having significant unintended negative ecological consequences."

Specifically, they found that, "at field-realistic levels of pollution, neonicotinoids ... generally have negative effects on physiology and survival for a wide range of non-target invertebrates in terrestrial, aquatic, marine and benthic habitats." Put simply, neonics kill a whole range of species beyond bees that are necessary for healthy, functioning ecosystems, such as butterflies (which also act as pollinators), earthworms and snails (both of which help maintain soil health).

Moreover, the scientists stated, "Imidalcloprid [a neonic, the most widely used insecticide in the world] and fipronil [an insecticide belonging to the phenylpyrazol family] were found to be toxic to many birds and most fish, respectively." They also concluded that imidacloprid, fipronil and clothianidin (a neonic) "exert sub-lethal effects, ranging from genotoxic and cytotoxic effects, and impaired immune function, to reduced growth and reproductive success, often at concentrations well below those associated with mortality. Use of imidacloprid and clothianidin as seed treatments on some crops poses risks to small birds, and ingestion of even a few treated seeds could cause mortality or reproductive impairment to sensitive bird species."

We have clearly not learned the lessons of pioneering conservationist Rachel Carson, who wrote in her seminal 1962 book Silent Spring: "Can anyone believe it is possible to lay down such a barrage of poisons on the surface of the earth without making it unfit for all life? They should not be called ‘insecticides,’ but ‘biocides.’”

Bee colony decline in Europe. Source: Simon G Potts et al., “Declines of managed honey bees and beekeepers in Europe,” Journal of Apicultural Research 49(1): 15-22 (2010)

Battle lines drawn

Six months after the WIA report came out, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), a nonprofit environmental advocacy group based in New York, filed a legal petition with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) asking the agency to withdraw its approval of neonics. The petition said:

Given mounting scientific evidence that neonicotinoids are toxic to bees and threaten both individual and population survival, the agency should also initiate cancellation proceedings for all neonicotinoid pesticide products, beginning with those for which safer alternatives are available. In the meantime, however, EPA should take immediate steps to protect bees and to prevent ongoing adverse effects on the environment. ... EPA should — at a minimum — immediately initiate interim administrative review to evaluate the serious threat that neonicotinoids pose to bees.

"Unlike traditional pesticides that are typically applied to a plant’s surface, neonicotinoids are systemic pesticides that are absorbed into plant tissue, turning a plant into a “tiny poison factory” that emits toxins from its pollen down to its roots," writes toxicologist Jennifer Sass, an expert on U.S. chemical policy who serves as a senior scientist in NRDC's health program. "As non-selective pesticides, neonicotinoids do not discriminate between target and non-target insect species, including beneficial pollinators."

"We are still awaiting a response from EPA," Dr. Sass told AlterNet. "So far they have neither responded to our petition or taken any final action."


Bee activists rally in Toronto, Canada, on May 25, 2013 (image: arindambanerjee/Shutterstock.com)

Last year, Canadian beekeepers filed a class action lawsuit against pesticide giants Bayer and Syngenta, seeking $400 million in damages. The plaintiffs claim that the firms "were negligent in their design and development of the neonicotinoid pesticides." A 2013 study by Health Canada, the government health agency, detected the pesticides in 70 percent of dead bees.

Beeline to right-wing money

The agrochemical industry has poured millions of dollars into passing laws and managing public perception. In 2013, Bayer, the primary manufacturer of imidacloprid, spent nearly $5 million lobbying the U.S. federal government on a variety of legislative and regulatory matters impacting the food, pharmaceutical and biotech industries — including bee health and EPA regulatory actions regarding pollinator protection. In the same year, the German corporation BASF, the world's largest chemical producer, which holds the patent rights for producing and selling fipronil, spent $2.26 million lobbying the U.S. government, including efforts to make S. 1009, Modernization of the Toxic Substances Control Act, a bill regarding the EPA's regulation of chemicals, more industry-friendly. Bayer has also been fighting efforts to place a moratorium on neonics in the E.U. "Bayer Group has been shown up as a corporate bully, trying to silence campaigners who are standing up for bees," said Friends of the Earth, an environmental nonprofit.

In addition to lobbying lawmakers and bullying activists, corporate interests are funding a propaganda machine that is working to discredit the science connecting neonics to bee deaths — the same machine that is propping up the pro-GMO, pro-pesticide agenda of Monsanto, Bayer, Syngenta and the other big players in the agrochemical industry. One of the most active cogs in this machine is the nonprofit Genetic Literacy Project (GLP), a GMO industry front group that is housed at the Statistical Assessment Service (STATS) program at George Mason University (GMU). According to Sourcewatch, "It seems that with the affiliation of the group with this right-wing university, significant work and output is being financially supported by GMU," whose major funders include ExxonMobil, the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation and the Searle Freedom Trust.

According to the STATS website, it is "funded by a grant from the Searle Freedom Trust … [and] does not accept industry funding or support." The Searle Freedom Trust is a conservative private foundation funded up by the inherited wealth of the pharmaceutical giant G.D. Searle & Co., now a part of Pfizer. Searle funds a wide range of conservative think tanks, including Americans for Prosperity, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and the Heartland Institute. Daniel Searle, the founder of G.D. Searle & Co., was the largest funder of the right-wing think tank the American Enterprise Institute.


image: Bee Informed

In March, GLP founder Jon Entine wrote a vigorous defense of neonics, which was posted on the GLP website. As one commenter mentioned, Entine "grossly misrepresents" the findings of a USDA study he mentions in his piece. In addition, he points to stable colony populations in the U.S. but fails to mention that American beekeepers have been importing bees from Australia to maintain their colony numbers. He may dupe a casual reader, but to followers of the biotech propaganda machine, this attempt to deceive the public about the harsh reality of neonics should come as no surprise.

"Jon Entine has professional ties to Monsanto, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Proctor & Gamble, and other similar corporations," writes Mike Adams, the founding editor of Natural News, a health news website. Adams goes on:

Entine is a key "attack operative" for the biotech industry, well known for authoring wildly defamatory character assassination articles to target GMO skeptics and scientists who disagree with the biotech industry’s contrived safety claims. With the help of Forbes.com and the American Enterprise Institute — both key players in attacking and smearing GMO skeptics and scientists — Entine has been instrumental in viciously smearing the reputations of numerous scientists, activists, independent journalists, and environmentalists, usually through the use of wildly fraudulent smear tactics and the wholesale fabrication of false "facts."

Complex clash

The biotech industry, however, has tried to shift the battle over bees and pesticides away from the arena of public relations and frame it as a political issue. “It’s more a clash of ideologies than PR,” said Luke Gibbs, head of corporate affairs for northern Europe at Syngenta, the world’s largest agrochemicals company and a leading producer of neonicotinoids. “[Bee decline is] a complicated, multifactorial issue. But it’s become so polarized and politicized that it unfortunately prevents us working together, when it could be very mutually beneficial.”

Environmentalists, food safety advocates and agribusiness working together? It may seem far-fetched, but considering the fact that the food system isn't going to be wrenched from corporate control any time soon, it may be an avenue worth exploring. “Both extremes are complete nonsense,” said conservation biologist Dave Goulson from the University of Sussex. “The science is pretty convincing that neonicotinoids are contributing to bees’ decline, but it’s by no means the worst factor. Most scientists agree it’s habitat loss that is the single biggest driver, with disease and pesticides contributing. Obviously, any pesticide is damaging to wildlife; it’s about finding the right balance between productivity and environmental impact.”

"The greens and beekeepers probably have an argument," said John Haynes, the manager of a 3,000-acre farm on the border of Essex and Hertfordshire counties in southeast England who supports the use of neonics. "But if you want oil seed rape to be grown in this country rather than imported, we need a more intelligent approach to neonicotinoids than a total ban."

The bee decline is more complex than simply pinning the blame on one class of pesticides. A three-year study by the University of Maryland published in the peer-reviewed journal PLOS ONE in March found that the neonic imidacloprid is "unlikely a sole cause of colony declines" in the U.S. over the past decade. The researchers did find that the pesticide is harmful to bees: Infestations of Varroa mites were significantly higher in exposed colonies. In addition, bees avoided honey stores that were contaminated with imidacloprid, leading to malnutrition. Still, the big takeaway from the study is that neonicontinoids are bad for bees.

Fear of free

Perhaps there is no need to find a "right balance" when it comes to neonics simply because they may not even be necessary. One of the arguments of the agrochemical industry is that there are no alternatives to neonics. That is simply not true. It's just that many of the alternatives do not enrich corporate coffers. On their Save the Honey Bees website, the Pesticide Action Network, an international coalition of NGOs, citizens' groups and individuals fighting pesticide use in around 60 countries, recounts an important story that farmers who are under the false assumption there are no options should note:

In 2008, when Italy discussed a possible banning of the use of seed coating on maize because of the spectacular honeybee colony losses, the industry made an impressive media campaign on the lack of alternatives to fight the Western Corn Rootworm and the economic damages such a decision would make: tens of millions of euros for farmers. After 4 years of maize harvest without neonicotinoids, no dropdown in maize production could be observed and an ancestral, simple and free technique replaced costly neonicotinoids: crop rotation. Such a technique can efficiently replace neonicotinoids for many plant predators.

One word in that story strikes fear in the hearts of agrochemical executives and their propagandist minions: free. They have a lot to lose if farmers turn to alternatives. (For a list of more sustainable alternatives to specific neonics, click here.) According to Statista.com, the worldwide agrochemical market generated $203.6 billion in 2013 and is on target to generate more than $242 billion in revenue by 2018. In 2012, insecticides and seed treatments (mostly neonic-based) comprised about 30 percent of Bayer CropScience’s revenues, and over six percent of Bayer’s overall sales.

There is also a growing body of evidence that questions the benefit of neonics. A study conducted by Michigan State University and published earlier this year in the Journal of Economic Entomology examined the relationship between western bean cutworm infestation and damage in dry beans. Looking at the use of seeds treated with the neonicotinoid thiamethoxam and soil treated with the systemic insecticide aldicarb, the researchers concluded that neither pesticide reduced cutworm damage. In fact, untreated plots had a lesser percentage of defects compared to treated plots, which were eaten by pests, which the researchers believe encountered fewer natural predators in the untreated plots.

Unsung and unpaid

Bees are facing fights on multiple fronts. And their job is thankless. Not only do they have to contend with deadly parasites, pathogens, pesticides and propaganda, they aren't even rewarded for all their labor. "You can thank the Apis mellifera, better known as the Western honeybee, for 1 in every 3 mouthfuls of food you’ll eat today," writes Bryan Walsh, TIME's foreign editor who has covered environmental issues for the magazine. "From the almond orchards of central California — where each spring billions of honeybees from across the U.S. arrive to pollinate a multibillion-dollar crop — to the blueberry bogs of Maine, the bees are the unsung, unpaid laborers of the American agricultural system, adding more than $15 billion in value to farming each year."

Pavan Sukhdev, an environmental economist who was appointed a Goodwill Ambassador in 2012 by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) for his work promoting the green economy, argues that we don't value the contribution of bees because that value hasn't been monetized. "Not a single bee has ever sent you an invoice," Sukhdev writes in the United Nations report "The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity." "And that is part of the problem — because most of what comes to us from nature is free, because it is not invoiced, because it is not priced, because it is not traded in markets, we tend to ignore it."


Bee covered in yellow spheres of pollen (image: John Kimbler via Climate Kids, NASA)

Even beyond putting a price tag on bees' work output, we should look to them as a model to emulate. "If you think about it, the honeybee beehive is the perfect paradigm for the ultimate food service industry," said Dr. Halter, the bee expert. "It begins before sunup. It closes shop after sundown. There is zero unemployment. And the bees are able to change their order of operations within a matter of minutes."

“The way humanity manages or mismanages its nature-based assets, including pollinators, will in part define our collective future in the 21st century," said Achim Steiner, UNEP's executive director. "The fact is that of the 100 crop species that provide 90 percent of the world’s food, over 70 are pollinated by bees.”

  Read Honeybees Are Facing a Global Threat, and If They Go, So Do We
Appel aux humains

by Guy Crequie

Guy Crequie

Email: guy.crequie@wanadoo.fr
Guy CREQUIE Global file
Ecrivain français à finalité philosophique. Blog http://guycrequie.blogspot.com
Poésie d'interpellation "Appel aux humains "

Assez de violence, de haine, de larmes et de sang. Parfois (et trop souvent ces dernières années) des croyances religieuses véhiculées par des humains deviennent intolérance, contrainte, fanatisme, et même assassinat contre d’autre personnes, voire des enfants. Ces actes sont contraires à l’espérance du message originel des grandes religions, à la solidarité au respect de la dignité de la vie, de toute existence.

Alors modestement, même si le moment approche où je devrais tire ma révérence de la vie publique, j’interviens dans le débat d’idées, je fais appel à la culture, aux tréfonds de mon humanité, à l’humanisme intégral pour : en poésie interpeller les consciences, rappeler le sens de notre présence sur cette terre ci.


Citoyens du monde
Scellons ensemble
La paix immuable
Le désir et les actes
Du respect de la vie

Favorisons l’émergence de l’être nouveau
La renaissance de la lumière
La présence de l’esprit
L’avancée solidaire du millénaire engagé
Pour que chaque personne
Devienne le frère ou la sœur de l’autre personne

A l’échelle du cosmos
Des immenses progrès technologiques et scientifiques
La guerre ou le conflit ethnique, nationaliste ou religieux
Sont une défaite de la pensée, de l’harmonie des existences
Le ciel a besoin de l’aurore
Pour imprégner les cœurs et les corps

La culture et l’éducation
Sont les citadelles du monde
Les poumons de sa perpétuité
Les horizons de sa nécessité
Les césures de son humanité
L’ouverture aux multitudes, nos proches contemporains
Là où la vie deviendra une aide mutuelle à la vie.

Copyright Guy CREQUIE

Dans leur recherche de l’absolu
Bien des individus éprouvent leur foi
Au service d’une philosophie et, ou d’une conception religieuse de la vie

Pour croire à leur providence
Ils ont besoin de croyance
Et cherchent leur destin
Guidé par un chemin

Inspiré par Dieu
Ou une loi mystique de l’univers
Ou un humanisme intégral d’essence religieuse ou laïque
La personne cherche son sens
Elle embrasse une religion
Ou une spiritualité d’existence

Dieu personnel
Dieu transcendantal
Illumination personnelle par sa révolution humaine
Engagement social solidaire

Médiation sur la terre
Libérateur des consciences
Respect des existences : humaines, animales, minérales, végétales….
Quel que soit notre repère
Acceptons cette réalité
Nous appartenons toutes et tous
Au genre humain de l’homo Sapiens

Religion ou philosophie de l’humanité
Eprouvons le lien de symbiose humaine
Convergence pour le bien

Ensemble, faisons des différences
Inévitables et fécondes
Non des obstacles ou des tares
Mais le bonheur de demain.

Copyright Guy CREQUIE
Poète, écrivain et chanteur

Enough violence, of hatred, tears and blood. Sometimes (and too often these last years) of the religious beliefs conveyed by the human ones become intolerance, constraint, fanaticism and even assassination against of another people, even of the children. These acts are contrary with the hope of the original message of the great religions, with solidarity with the respect of the dignity of the life, of any existence.

Then modestly, even if the moment approaches where I would have take my leave from the public life, I intervene in the ideological debate, I call on the culture, the subsoils of my humanity, integral humanism for: in poetry to challenge the consciences, to recall the direction of our presence on this ground Ci.

Citizens of the world
Let Us Seal together
Immutable peace
The desire and acts
Respect of the life

Let Us Support emergence to be it new
Rebirth of the light
The presence of mind
The projection interdependent of the committed millenium
So that each person
Becomes the brother or the sister of the other person

At the level of cosmos
Immense technological and scientific progress
The war or the conflict ethnic, nationalist or religious
Are a defeat of the thought, harmony of the existences

The sky needs the dawn
To impregnate the hearts and the bodies

Culture and education
Are the citadels of the world
Lungs of its perpetuity
Horizons of its need
Caesuras of its humanity
The opening to the contemporary multitudes, our close relations
Where the life will become a cross-servicing with the life.

Copyright Guy CREQUIE

In their research of the absolute
Many individuals test their faith
With the service of a philosophy and, or a religious design of the life

To accept their providence
They need belief
And seek their destiny
Guided by a way

Inspired by God
Or a mystical law of the universe
Or religious or an integral laic petrol humanism
The person seeks her direction
She embraces a religion
Or a spirituality of existence

Personal God
Transcendental God
Personal Illumination by its human revolution
Interdependent social Commitment

Mediation on the ground
Liberator of the consciences
Respect of the existences: human, animal, mineral, vegetable….
Whatever our reference mark
Let Us Accept this reality
We all belong and
With the mankind of the homo sapiens

Religion or philosophy of humanity
Let Us Test the bond of human symbiosis
Convergence for the good

Together, let us make differences
Inevitable and fertile
Not obstacles or tares
But the happiness of tomorrow

Copyright Guy CREQUIE
Poet, writer and singer
  Read Appel aux humains
 October 4, 2015
Le passage de la paix La transición hacia la paz The transition to peace

by François Fournet, France
Cercle Univ. Ambassadeurs de la Paix

Le passage de la paix

Je ne peux te donner la paix
ne veux te la donner
car elle est le bourgeon
dont tu portes l’éclosion.
Elle est l’issue bleue
de ton intime immensité.
Ce que tu crois n’être
que plume dans le vent
frisson d’une feuille
vague fugitive
est le premier accord
de la grande symphonie.
Il suffit d’une note,
un mot, un geste,
un fragile sourire
le don d’un tout premier envol
pour naitre,
pour naitre et être sa lumière.
Tu sauras qu’elle vit en toi
lorsque tu verras les regards
s’illuminer sur ton passage
lorsque tu sentiras s’ouvrir
le passage bleu du ciel
sur la terre.

La transición hacia la paz
Yo no te puedo dar la paz
No quiero darle a usted
porque es el brote
que usted usa el brote.
Es el extremo azul
su inmensidad íntima.
¿Crees que ser
que pluma en el viento
emoción de una hoja
ola fugitiva
es el primer acuerdo
la gran sinfonía.
Sólo una nota,
una palabra, un gesto,
una sonrisa frágil
el regalo de un primer vuelo
para nacer,
para nacer y su luz.
Usted sabrá que vive en ti
cuando vea las miradas
iluminará en su camino
cuando se siente abierta
cielo azul pasaje
en la tierra.

The transition to peace
I can not give you peace
do not wanna give it to you
because it is the bud
which you wear the outbreak.
It is the blue end
your intimate immensity.
Do you think being
that feather in the wind
thrill of a sheet
fugitive wave
is the first agreement
the great symphony.
Just a note,
a word, a gesture,
a fragile smile
the gift of a first flight
to be born,
to be born and his light.
You'll know it lives in you
when you see the looks
light up on your way
when you feel open
blue sky passage
on earth.

Переход к миру
Я не могу дать вам мир
не хочу дать вам это
потому что это бутон
которые вы носите вспышку.
Это синий конец
Ваш интимный необъятность.
Как вы думаете, будучи
что перо на ветру
Трепет листа
беглеца волна
первое соглашение
великий симфония.
Просто к сведению,
слово, жест,
хрупкий улыбка
подарок из первого полета
родиться и его свет.
Вы будете знать, что живет в тебе
когда вы видите вид
загорается на вашем пути
когда вы чувствуете открыт
голубое небо проход
на земле.

A transição para a paz
Eu não posso dar-lhe a paz
não quero dar a você
porque é o botão
que você veste o surto.
É a extremidade azul
sua imensidão íntima.
Você acha que ser
que pena ao vento
emoção de uma folha
onda fugitivo
é o primeiro acordo
a grande sinfonia.
Apenas uma nota,
uma palavra, um gesto,
um sorriso frágil
o dom de um primeiro vôo
para nascer,
para nascer e sua luz.
Você sabe que vive em você
quando você vê os olhares
acendem-se no seu caminho
quando você se sentir aberto
céu azul passagem
na terra.
  Read Le passage de la paix    La transición hacia la paz    The transition to peace




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